Dr Sunhee Koo

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Senior Lecturer

Research | Current

For the last ten years, I have focused my research on the relationship between music and the construction of identity among diasporic Koreans in the U.S., China, and Japan, and Chinese Korean return migrants and North Korean defectors in South Korea. My research on these topics presents important case studies that deal with the transformation of Northeast Asia, into a vibrant cultural intersection in which various nations, citizenship, and cultural identities are crisscrossed. The primary outcome of my research is the sole-authored book on Chinese Korean music and identity (under contract with the University of Hawai‘i Press); I have submitted the full manuscript for the press review in 2017, and after receiving the positive reviews, I am currently completing the revision of manuscript, which I expect to finish no later than the end of 2018. By winning the University of Auckland’s Faculty Research Development Fund in 2016, I began new research on North Korean performing arts troupes in South Korea and Japan. As outcome of this research, I delivered six conference papers at various international conference venues and submitted two book-chapter and one refereed-journal manuscripts, all of which are currently under review. My growing expertise in Korean diaspora and migration, and North Korean performing arts distinguishes my work globally. 

Teaching | Current

ANTHRO 202 Music and Identity in World Music Cultures

ANTHRO 301 Contemporary Research in Music and Culture

Postgraduate supervision

2018–2019  John Hyun-Joon Jang, MA thesis, P’umba: Politics and Commercialisation of a Traditionesque Theatre in Contemporary South Korea, Anthropology, University of Auckland

2017–  Hae Eun Shin, PhD thesis, North Korean Performing Arts, Anthropology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (External Supervision Committee Member)

2017-   Kooshna Gupta, PhD thesis, Item Songs and Gender in Hindi Cinema, Anthropology, University of Auckland

2017–2018      Dorithy Mitasa, BA Honour dissertation, Transculturality in K-Pop and its Appeal to Auckland Youths, Anthropology, University of Auckland

2016–2017      John Hyun-Joon Jang, PG Dip, Aging and Ritual in Korean Music, Anthropology, University of Auckland

2011–2017      Jihye Kim, PhD thesis, Ethnicity and Opportunity: Korean Entrepreneurship in the Argentine Garment Industry, Asian Studies, University of Auckland

2014    Shahabeddin Chilan, PhD thesis in the School of Music (SoM), the National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries (NICAI), University of Auckland

2012–2013      Anna Zhang, MM thesis, The Construction and Reconstruction of Chinese National Vocal Music, School of Music, NICAI, University of Auckland


2007    The 2006 Best Student Paper Prize, Association for Korean Music Research

2004    The 2004 Chancellor’s Doctoral Student Research Achievement Award, University    Research Council, UHM

2003, 2002Arts and Sciences Advisory Council Award, College of Arts and Sciences, UHM

2002    Outstanding Student in Ethnomusicology, Music Department, UHM

2002    Chinese Music Scholarship, UHM

2001    Nesta Obermer Chamber Music Scholarship, UHM

1995    Founder’s Day Award, College of Arts and Sciences, NYU

1995    Hanna van Vollenhollen Memorial Prize, Department of Music, NYU


UoA Korean Studies Advisory Board (Academy of Korean Studies‒Core University Program of Korean Studies Fund)


Areas of expertise

East Asia: China, North and South Korea, Japan

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Korean Studies Australasia Association (KSAA) Board Member

Newsletter Editor of KSAA

Board Member of Asian Musicology, a peer-reviewed journal published in South Korea

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Koo, S. H. (2019). Silky or Broken Sound?: The Performance and Performativity of North Korean Self-Reliance Singing in South Korea. Voicing the Unheard: Music as windows for minorities. Paris, France: L'Harmattan. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/47797
  • Koo, S. H. (2019). Zainichi Korean Identity and Performing North Korean Music in Japan. Korean Studies, 43, 169-195. Related URL.
  • Koo, S. H. (2019). Korean Musical Drama: P'ansori and the Making of Tradition in Modernity by Haekyung Um; Korean P'ansori Singing Tradition: Development, Authenticity, and Performance History by Yeonok Jang [Review]. Ethnomusicology, 63 (1), 141-145. 10.5406/ethnomusicology.63.1.0141
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/48255
  • Koo, S. (2019). Korea: History, Culture, and Geography of Music. In J. Sturman (Ed.) The SAGE International Encyclopedia of Music and Culture (pp. 1274-1276). Thousand Oaks, USA: SAGE Publications, Inc.. 10.4135/9781483317731.n409
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/47803
  • Kim, J., & Koo, S. (2017). From father to son: 1.5- and second-generation Korean argentines and ethnic entrepreneurship in the argentine garment industry. The Review of Korean Studies, 20 (2), 175-201.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/40733
  • Koo, S. (2016). Silky or broken voice? Performing North Korean self-reliance singing in South Korea. Paper presented at ICTM Study Group Symposium “Music and Minorities”, Rennes, France. 4 July - 8 July 2016.
  • Koo, S. (2016). Reconciling nations and citizenship: Meaning, creativity, and the performance of a North Korean troupe in South Korea. The Journal of Asian Studies, 75 (2), 387-409. 10.1017/S0021911815002077
  • Koo, S., & SUNG, S. Y. L. (2016). Asia and beyond: The circulation and reception of Korean popular music outside of Korea. In H. Shin, S. A. Lee (Eds.) Made in Korea: Studies in Korean popular music (pp. 203-214). London & New York: Routledge.


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 8, Room 817
New Zealand

Web links