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Please join us for a Joint CHSTM/EAS Research Seminar on Wednesday 16 February, 4-30-6pm.
The seminar will be delivered in Hybrid format: live in the Simon Building, Theatre E, and online via Zoom. Please register here: https://tinyurl.com/hyungsub-choi-masks
Attendance free. All welcome.

Dr. Hyungsub Choi (Seoul National University of Science and Technology, and Needham Research Institute, Cambridge)
‘From Hwangsa to Covid-19: The Rise of Mass Masking in South Korea’

Abstract: The beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic shed spotlight on facial masks around the world. South Korea, along with other East Asian societies, was at the forefront of accepting face masks into everyday life. In this presentation, Dr Choi will trace the historical roots of face masks in South Korea (and beyond), as well as analyze the recent debate over their efficacy in viral protection and equitable distribution. Based on the social life of masks in South Korea, he will argue that the widespread acceptance of facial masks in South Korea during the early phase of the pandemic was a reenactment of more recent experiences with hwangsa and PM2.5, more so than deeply entrenched cultural value or a century-old habit of donning cotton gauze masks.

This presentation is based on a co-authored essay (with Heewon Kim) submitted as part of a collection in the upcoming issue of East Asian Science, Technology and Society. An earlier version has been presented at “The Socio-Material History of Masked Societies in East Asia” workshop organized by Jaehwan Hyun (then) at the Max Planck Institute of the History of Science.

Hyungsub Choi is an associate professor of history of science and technology at Seoul National University of Science and Technology. He is spending the 2021-2022 academic year as visiting scholar at the Needham Research Institute, Cambridge, UK. Trained as a historian of technology, Choi is working on a book manuscript recasting the history of technology in modern Korea from the perspective of importation and indigenization of everyday technologies.