Hyeok Hweon Kang

Hyeok Hweon Kang

Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures
PhD, Harvard University
research interests:
  • early modern Korea and East Asia
  • history of science and technology
  • material culture
  • global history

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
    MSC 1111-107-115
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

Professor Kang works and teaches on early modern Korea and East Asia, with a focus on the history of science and technology, material culture, and global history.

Professor Kang's current book project, The Artisanal Heart of Korea: Vernacular Engineering in the Global Material Age, 1563–1878, examines how artisans and practitioners of Chosŏn Korea (1392–1910) developed a “science of making” which proved innovative across various fields of craft practice, from gunsmithing and clock-making to crystallization. His previous work on the subject includes “Crafting Knowledge: Artisan, Officer, and the Culture of Making in Chosŏn Korea, 1392–1910” (PhD diss., Harvard University, 2020), which won the 2021 Turriano Prize  and the 2021 International Convention of Asia Scholars Book Prize (English—Best Dissertation in the Humanities).

His research interests are wide-ranging, from early modern science, technology, and music, to global material culture, military history, and digital humanities. His publications have appeared in edited volumes and scholarly journals, including Isis: A Journal of the History of Science Society, Journal of World History, Journal of Chinese Military History, The Military Revolution and Revolutions in Military Affairs, and Routledge Handbook of Asian Music.

His digital humanities projects include a network analysis of international criminals in seventeenth-century Nagasaki and a biographical database of artisans in early modern Korea. With Michelle Suh, he co-designed the search engine and research platform Silloker, which provides exploratory data analysis on five centuries of historical data from Chosŏn Korea.

Prior to joining the WashU faculty in 2021, he was a D. Kim Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of the History of Science and Technology, Johns Hopkins University. He received his Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages from Harvard University, and his B.A. in History and Music from Emory University.

Selected Publications

Works in Progress

The Artisanal Heart of Korea: Vernacular Engineering in the Global Material Age, 1563–1878 (manuscript in progress)

“Digital Humanist as Historical Detective: A Network Analysis of International Crime in Nagasaki, Japan circa 1667” (journal article, under review)

With Michelle Suh, “Korean Chronicles under a Macroscope: Towards a Digital Infrastructure in Premodern Korean Studies” (journal article, under review)

“Affordances of Early Modern Technology: Europe, East Asia, and the Interpretive Flexibility of Smoothbore Ballistics” (journal article, under review)

“Kingpins at Court: Contraband Diplomacy between Korea, Japan, and Tsushima, 1607–1671” (journal article, under review)

“Tactics Before Technics: Korean Perception of Japanese Wartime Technology, 1592–1598” (journal article, under review)


Peer Reviewed Articles and Book Chapters

“Reverse Engineering as History and Method: The Portuguese Espingarda in Chosŏn Korea,” History & Technology (accepted, forthcoming in 2022).

“Cooking Niter, Prototyping Nature: Saltpeter and Artisanal Experiment in Korea, 1592–1635,” Isis: A Journal of the History of Science Society 113, no. 1 (March 2022): 1–21.

“Difference in an Age of Parity: Technology and Global Military History,” in The Military Revolution and Revolutions in Military Affairs, ed. Mark C. Fissel (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2022), 29–64.

“The Korean Snap Matchlock: A Global Microhistory,” Bulletin of the American Society of Arms Collectors 124 (2022): 30–41.

“Nature of Narye: Sound, Spectacle, and the Politics of Performance in Fifteenth-Century Korea, 1392–1592,” in Routledge Handbook of Asian Music: Cultural Intersections, ed. Tong Soon Lee (London: Routledge, 2021), 150–173.

With Tonio Andrade and Kirsten Cooper, “A Korean Military Revolution? Parallel Military Innovations in East Asia and Europe,” Journal of World History 25, no. 1 (March 2014): 51–84.

“Big Heads and Buddhist Demons: The Korean Musketry Revolution and the Northern Expeditions of 1654 and 1658,” Journal of Chinese Military History 2, no. 2 (2013): 127–189.

Courses Taught

“Kitchen, Studio, Factory: Making in East Asia” (Undergraduate Seminar)

“Nature, Technology, and Medicine in Korea” (Undergraduate Research Seminar)