Yongusil 91: New Frontiers in Korean Studies

By and | May 30, 2017 | No Comments

Presenters and discussants at The George Washington University workshop “Korea and the World: New Frontiers in Korean Studies.” | Image: Young-Key Kim-Renaud

The George Washington University recently received funding to start a new Institute for Korean Studies. Pursuant to this, the institute’s interim director, Dr. Gregg Brazinsky, organized a workshop on May 23-24 for young Koreanists across multiple disciplines. Under the theme “New Frontiers in Korean Studies: Korea and the World,” ten young scholars presented their work, all of which pursue new directions in understanding Korean history, politics, and society. Discussants included Mitch Lerner (The Ohio State University), Harris Mylonas (The George Washington University), Jiyoung Lee (American University), James Person (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars) and Arissa Oh (Boston College), among others.

The topics ranged from South Korea’s wartime black market to the interaction between North and South Korean students at foreign schools. Two of Sino-NK’s senior editors were among the ten who presented.

Multiculturalism in Contemporary Korea | While most scholarship on Korean national membership focuses on ethnocultural in-group belonging, Draudt’s work unpacks how economic membership has been key in the state’s view of hierarchies of members of its national project. Draudt’s paper focuses on the latter field by examining the state motivations and policies what the South Korean government calls “multiculturalism” (다문화주의) as a strategy for development. Analyzing South Korea’s multiculturalism (or multiculturalism policy, 다문화주의 정책) found in the Basic Plans for Immigration, Draudt’s paper is concerned with official, national-level motivation and formulation of immigration and incorporation policy (rather than its implementation or practice).

The paper looks at the conditions by which different potential Global Koreans are sought out by the state to play a role in the political economy of the nation. Putting this in conversation with a long-term developmental project of the modern Korean state, she argues that rather than a process of assimilation, the state multiculturalism policy is in fact the extension of a larger globalization drive that infuses nationalistic elements with developmental goals. The policy in effect creates diverse and hierarchized memberships in a contemporary nation-state project. As the multiculturalism policy shows, membership in this project is hierarchized, diverse, and contingent.

Growing up Democratic: Does it Matter? | Most research into democratic values centers on Western Europe and North America. This is not surprising. Most of the world’s democracies are found there, and they have been there the longest. However, the universe of possible cases has expanded as the number of democracies have grown. With the maturation of post-autocratic “Third Wave” democracies, we have new cases from which to choose, and data to use.

Denney’s paper investigates how democratic reform in South Korea affected the political opinions of citizens by comparing the satisfaction with democracy among generations, as well as economic and educational cohorts. Using a research design similar to that employed in studies of post-Communist societies, he looks at whether people who were socialized under autocracy have a difficult time adapting to the circumstances of democratic rule, or whether democratic consolidation is driven by financial considerations or level of education, as modernization theory predicts. This study uses pooled cross-sectional data from the World Values Survey between the period 1995 and 2014.

Predicted probabilities for interaction effects between generation and education in South Korea. The dependent variable is a measure of support for authoritarianism. Relevant controls included. Data: World Values Survey 2001-2010. | Graph by Steven Denney

Denney does not find sufficient evidence to conclude that generational effects independently explain variations in democratic support in South Korea. He does, however, find an interesting interaction between level of education and generation. Those who grew up under autocracy and are well educated (some university and above) are less supportive of authoritarian values than those who are well educated and grew up under democracy. While growing up democratic doesn’t appear to matter, growing up autocratic does. Greater cognitive development and exposure to autocracy means a greater aversion to autocratic governance. (Notably, there is little difference between education units within the democratic generation; so, in a sense, growing up democratic does matter.)