Joseph Seeley

Assistant Professor

452 Nau Hall
Office Hours: W, 1:00-3:00PM

Field & Specialties

Modern Korea
Japanese Empire
East Asian Environmental History
Borderlands and Historical Geography


Ph.D., Stanford University (2019)

B.A., Brigham Young University (2013)

A.S., Dixie State College (2007)


Joseph Seeley is an Assistant Professor and specialist in the history of Korea, the Japanese Empire, and East Asian environmental history. 

His book Border of Water and Ice (forthcoming October 2024) examines the Yalu River boundary between northern Korea and China during a period of Japanese expansion in the region. Drawing on previously unexamined sources in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, he argues that the seasonally freezing, thawing, and flooding river was a critical actor in imperial border creation and contestation. As part of his multilingual research on Korean history, Seeley has also published on topics such as animal disease control in colonial Korea, US-Korean diplomatic history, Korean tiger-human relations, and the history of Japanese colonial zoos in Seoul and Taipei. 

Prior to joining the History faculty at UVA Seeley completed his doctoral studies at Stanford University, where his research was supported by the Korea Foundation and the Freeman Spogli Institute. Before Stanford he earned a bachelor’s degree in History with a minor in Korean from Brigham Young University. 



Border of Water and Ice: The Yalu River and Japanese Imperialism in Korea and Manchuria [pre-order from Cornell University Press:

Peer-Reviewed Articles and Book Chapters:

"Cattle, Viral Invasions, and State-Society Relations in a Colonial Korean Borderland." Journal of Korean Studies Vol. 28, No. 1 (March 2023): 5-31. 

"Dammed Fish: Piscatorial Developmentalism and the Remaking of the Yalu River." In David Fedman, Eleana J. Kim, and Albert L. Park, eds., Forces of Nature: New Perspectives on Korean Environments (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2023). Book available for free e-download: 

"Reeds, River Islands, and Inter-Imperial Conflict on the Early Twentieth-Century Sino-Korean Border." Water History Vol. 12 (September 2020): 373–384. 

With Aaron Skabelund. "'Bite, Bite against the Iron Cage': The Colonial Seoul and Taipei Zoos and Empire’s Ambivalent Dreamscape." Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 79, No. 2 (May 2020): 429-454.

With Aaron Skabelund. “Tigers—Real and Imagined—in Korea’s Physical and Cultural Landscape.” Environmental History, Vol. 20, No. 3 (July 2015): 475–503.

With Kirk Larsen. “Simple Conversation or Secret Treaty? The Taft-Katsura Memorandum in Korean Historical Memory,” Journal of Korean Studies, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Spring 2014): 59-92. 

Book Reviews:

Review of Ruth Rogaski, Knowing Manchuria: Environments, the Senses, and Natural Knowledge on an Asian BorderlandEast Asian Science, Technology and Medicine, Vol. 55 (2023): 157-161. 

Review of Adam Cathcart, Cristopher Green, and Steven Denney, eds., Decoding the Sino-North Korean Borderlands, Pacific Affairs, Vol. 94, No. 3 (September 2021).

Review of Seonmin Kim, Ginseng and Borderland: Territorial Boundaries and Political Relations between Qing China and Chosŏn Korea, Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 79, No. 3 (Aug 2020): 829-831

Review of David Ambaras, Japan's Imperial Underworlds: Intimate Encounters at the Borders of Empire, Social History Vol. 44, no. 4 (2019), 501-503.


Courses Taught

HIEA 1501: Industrial Pollution and Society in East Asia

HIEA 2091: Korean Civilization to 1900

HIEA 2101, Modern Korean History: One Peninsula, Two Paths

HIEA 3559: Borders, Maps, and Conflict in East Asia

HIEA 4501, North Korea