Yongusil 75: Sino-NK and a New Academy of Korean Studies Grant

By | September 10, 2015 | No Comments

It is something of an understatement to declare that North Korea produces an awful lot of news. Recent events (or non-events) have thrust Pyongyang once again in the world’s eye: Garish, outlandish, gory, and fantastical as always. Sorting out the wheat from the chaff, the flak from the shrapnel, the truth from the fiction of the regular product and process of North Korea’s news churn seemingly provides a full-time job for an entire ecosystem of scholars, journalists, and interested amateurs.

For the most part, the analysis you find here on Sino-NK is buttressed and underpinned by the tried and tested authority of the peer review and the rigor of functional and reliable academic methodology. What goes necessarily unseen is the peer-review process itself. Indeed, the research projects which generate the material which finds its way onto Sino-NK are themselves the result of applications to much more august accumulations of academic and empirical authority. The Academy of Korean Studies (AKS) is  for the field of Korean Studies one such locus of enterprise, legitimacy and funding. Founded back in 1978 during the reign of Park Chung-hee, AKS from its verdant, beautiful home in Seongnam (southeast of Seoul) has sought to support and foster the development of contemporary academic analysis of the Korean Peninsula.

It is with great pleasure, therefore, that the Yongusil can announce the successful application of a team from Sino-NK to the Academy of Korean Studies 2015-2016 Korean Studies Grant Programme. Editor-in-Chief Dr. Adam Cathcart, Co-Editor Christopher Green, and Managing Editor Steven Denney have been awarded a competitive research grant to engage in a project entitled “Reproducing Contested Identities and Social Structures on the Korean Peninsula.” Building on a previous grant in the 2013-2014 series focused on the development of ideology and statecraft under Kim Jong-un, the Sino-NK team will investigate the processes and implications of national identity formation and the impact of national ideologies either side of the 38th parallel and in the Sino-Korean borderlands.

Recent work by Dr. Sarah Son on the construction of national and personal identities amongst those northern Koreans now residing in the South, as well as new writing by Hyun Ok Park, produces intriguing and useful frameworks for consideration of this most diffuse and internalized of political impacts. Given President Park Geun-hye’s conception of trans-peninsular unification as a potential “jackpot” or “bonanza,” it is perhaps an auspicious time for those engaged in this new grant to expand analysis of what identities and structures might be present or forged by such a bonanza beyond the scale of the personal. The grantees, through a series of fieldwork exercises, semi-structured and structured interviews, and empirical analysis seek to uncover not only the impact of state ideologies upon national identities in the global eco-system of Koreas and Koreans, but also the nature of pre- and post-unification identities no matter where they are geographically located.

The Yongusil will follow their future outputs with interest, no doubt here on Sino-NK, but elsewhere in the wider firmament of academic and other journals and publications, as well as their promised and anticipated production of an accessible database of interview material and other evidential elements which will surely be greatly useful to future scholars and interested parties.

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