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The Korea Now Podcast

May 20, 2021

This episode of the Korea Now podcast features an interview that Jed Lea-Henry conducted with Hyunhee Park. They speak about Hyunhee’s book Soju: A Global History, the Eurasian roots of distilled liquors with arak and shaojiu, the Mongol origins of soju and the technology transfers to Koryo-Korea, how soju was distilled and the early role it played in Koryo, the increased popularity of soju during the Choson dynasty and the rise of its cultural significance, the impact of the Japanese colonial era and how modernisation produced in industrial soju to compete with traditional soju, the international connections that soju has with countries such as Japan and Mexico, and the important place that soju holds today in terms of both its popularity and as a national Korean icon; championed at home and exported abroad as soft power.

Hyunhee Park is an Associate Professor of History at the City University of New York, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and CUNY Graduate Center. A native of South Korea, she received her BA in Asian and Western history at Seoul National University in 1997, her MA in East Asian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2003, and her Ph.D. in history at Yale University in 2008. She specializes in the history of cross-cultural contacts in East Asia, the Islamic world, the Mongol Empire, and global intellectual history focusing on information/knowledge transfers including geographical knowledge, foodways, and distillation. Her book Mapping the Chinese and Islamic Worlds: Cross-Cultural Exchange in Pre-Modern Asia explores medieval contact and exchange between the Islamic World and China by utilizing geographic and cartographic information. And pertinent to this podcast Hyunhee is the author of ‘Soju: A Global History’ (

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