AProf Stephen Epstein

AProf Stephen Epstein profile picture

Director of Asian Languages & Cultures School of Languages and Cultures


Teaching in 2020

Research interests

South Korea, North Korea, Korean society, literature and culture, Korean popular culture, K-pop, punk rock, contemporary Asian popular culture, literary translation, the ancient Greek and Roman novel.


BA Harvard, MA, PhD California


Over the course of his career, Stephen Epstein has had dual specializations in the ancient Mediterranean and in contemporary Korea. His primary intellectual activities, however, start from a fascination with language and a desire to explore the experience of daily life in other cultures. His research focuses on contemporary Korean society, and he is currently working on a variety of projects addressing popular culture and the media in South Korea. Stephen has also published several translations of Korean and Indonesian fiction, and co-produced two documentaries on the Korean underground music scene. At VUW, he directs the Asian Languages and Cultures Programme and served as director of the Asian Studies Institute between 2003-2008. He also served as the 2013-14 president of the New Zealand Asian Studies Society.

Current research projects

Assoc Prof Stephen Epstein has, in recent years, been examining how an explosion of contacts that cross national boundaries is reshaping South Korean national identity. In particular, he focuses on Korean media and popular culture representations of South Korea's neighbours and its relationships with them, as a vehicle for better understanding the interaction of identity and globalising forces, both in Korea and more generally. He is also currently translating Intan Paramaditha’s award-winning novel Gentayangan: Pilih Sendiri Petualangan Sepatu Merahmu (The Wandering: Choose Your Own Red Shoes Adventure).

Research supervision

Current supervision

  • Lehyla Heward: Chinese and Korean Intellectuals and Transculturation in Manchuria in the 1920s-1940s: Writing as Social Practice
  • Thi Luong: Soft Masculinity in Korean TV Dramas and its Reception in Vietnam: Desires, Identification and Gender Identity
  • Dylan Stent: Competing National Identities and South Korean Policy toward North Korea
  • Bo Wang: Participatory Engagement in the Web 2.0 Era: A Study of Chinese Social Media Fan Subcultures
  • Jay Waters: Korean New Zealanders in Sport: Golf and the 1.5 Generation (MA).

Proposals welcome

  • Korean literature, culture and society
  • Literary translation of Korean and Indonesian fiction into English

Teaching interests

I enjoy teaching in a wide variety of topics in Asian Studies, and take particular pleasure in using the possibilities of new information technologies to open up perspectives on important issues in contemporary Asian society.

Contemporary Asian society and popular culture.

Key achievements

  • Co-producer of documentary: Us and Them: Korean Indie Rock in a K-Pop World, with Timothy Tangherlini, Traumatic Productions. 2014. Official Selection: Adelaide Fringe Festival (3/15); Association for Asian Studies, Chicago (3/15); Western States Folklore Society (4/15); Alta Fidelidad, Bogotá (7/15).
  • 2013 Victoria Teaching Excellence Award.
  • 2009-2012 Marsden Fund Research Project - Korea and Its Neighbours: Globalisation and National Identity in the 21st Century.
  • 2011 Victoria Research Excellence Award.
  • 2006 Daesan Foundation Translation Grant for the translation of Park Wan-suh's Who Ate Up All the Shinga?
  • Co-producer of documentary: Our Nation: A Korean Punk Rock Community, with Timothy Tangherlini, Traumatic Productions, 2001, New York, Filmmakers Library. Official Selection: Sonatrope, Hong Kong (2007); Amplitude, Sao Paolo, Brazil (2006); Night of Ghouls, Reykjavik, Iceland (2003); Washington DC Underground Film Festival (5/03); Chicago Underground Film Festival (2002); INDIE 2002, Belo Horizonte, Brazil (2002); Chicago Asian American Showcase (2002); 9th Annual New York Underground Film Festival (2002); Association for Asian Studies Conference (2002); First International Korean Punk Rock Film Festival, Seoul, Korea (2001).

Selected publications


  • Apple and Knife, by Intan Paramaditha. Brow Books: Melbourne, 2018.
  • A Sourcebook of the Korean Wave (compiled and co-edited with Yun Mi Hwang), Academy of Korean Studies Press; Songnam, S. Korea; 2016.
  • Spinner of Darkness & Other Tales, by Intan Paramaditha, btw books, Lontar Foundation: Jakarta, 2015.
  • Telegram by Putu Wijaya, Lontar Foundation: Jakarta, 2011.
  • Complicated Currents: Media Flows, Soft Power and East Asia (co-edited with Alison Tokita and Daniel Black), Monash University Publications: Melbourne, 2010.
  • The Long Road by Kim In-Suk, MerwinAsia: Portland, Maine, 2010.
  • Who Ate Up All The Shinga? by Park Wan-suh, (critical introduction; and co-translation with Yu Young-nan), Columbia University Press: New York, 2009.

Journal articles and book chapters

  • Because I Hate Korea by Chang Kang-myoung,” The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 16, Issue 11 No 4, May 21, 2018. http://apjjf.org/2018/11/Epstein.html.
  • “From South Korea to the Southern Hemisphere: K-Pop Below the Equator,” Journal of World Popular Music 3.2 (December 2016), pp. 197-223.
  • Us and Them: Korean Indie Rock in a K-Pop World,” The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 13, Issue 46 No 1, Nov. 30, 2015.
  • “Social Change and Marriage Patterns among Koryo Saram in Kazakhstan, 1937-1965” (with Natalya Yem)Seoul Journal of Korean Studies 28.2 (December 2015), pp.133-52.
  • “Into the New World: Girls’ Generation from the Local to the Global”, in K-Pop: The International Rise of the Korean Music Industry ed. by JungBong Choi and Roald Maliangkay, Routledge : London and New York, 2014, pp. 35-50.
  • “Girls’ Generation? Gender, (Dis)Empowerment and K-Pop” (with James Turnbull), The Korean Popular Culture Reader ed. by Kyung-Hyun Kim and Young-Min Choe, Duke University Press: Durham NC, 2014, pp. 314-336.
  • “Now on My Way to Meet Who? South Korean Television, North Korean Refugees and the Dilemmas of Representation” (with Christopher K. Green), Asia-Pacific Journal Vol. 11, Issue 41, No. 2, October 14, 2013.
  • "Multiple Exposures: Korean Bodies and the Transnational Imagination” (with Rachael M. Joo), The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol.10, Issue 33, No. 1, August 13, 2012.
  • “‘Geu manhdeon singaneun nuga da meogeosseulkka: ’ haeseol - naedabogi wa dulyeodabogi: myeot myeot gaeinjeogin gieokdeul [Reading Who Ate Up All the Shinga? Inside-Out and From the Outside In: Some Personal Reflections]” in Park Wan-suh, Geu manhdeon singaneun nuga da meogeosseulkka, Bak Wanseo Soseol Jeonjip, [Who Ate Up All the Shinga? The Complete Fictional Works of Park Wan-suh], vol. 19, Segyesa Press: Seoul 2012, pp. 285-301 (in Korean).
  • “Daughter of the Wind: The Travel Writing of Han Biya,” Seoul Journal of Korean Studies 24.2 (December 2011), pp. 295-319.
  • “Korean Youth Netizenship and its Discontents” (with Sun Jung), Media International Australia 141 (November 2011), pp. 78-86.
  • “The True Origins of Pizza: Irony, the Internet and East Asian Nationalisms” (with Rumi Sakamoto), The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 9, Issue 44 No 5, October 31, 2011.
  • “From Russia With Love: Contemporary South Korean Images of Russia”, in Proceedings of the 25th AKSE Conference, Volume 2, 2011, pp. 529-535.
  • “J-Pop, K-Pop, and Transnational Reconciliation” in Korean Studies in Shift: PACKS 2010 Proceedings, ed. by Changzoo Song, 2011, Auckland: New Zealand Asia Institute, pp. 73-86.
  • “Introduction: Understanding Indonesia”, Journal of Indonesian Social Sciences and Humanities 3 (2010): 1-9.
  • "Distant Land, Neighbouring Land: Japan in Contemporary South Korean Discourse", Complicated Currents: Media Flows and Soft Power in East Asia, eds. Daniel Black, Stephen Epstein and Alison Tokita, Monash University Publications, Melbourne, 2010, 1.1-1.15.


Teaching in 2020