Researcher Spotlight: Russell Burge

July 4th, 2017

Russell Burge
Junior Researcher 2016-17

Can you provide a small bio that outlines your hometown and education background?
I grew up in Escondido, California and majored in Art History at UCLA. After a brief stint working in the art world in New York City I came to Incheon to teach English, which is how I became interested in Korean language and history. After two years working in South Korea I completed a masters at Harvard’s Regional Studies East Asia program, and am currently a PhD candidate in the History Department at Stanford University.

Can you briefly tell us about your research?
I look at city growth and social change during the 1960s and 1970s, a time in which South Korea underwent rapid development, shifting from a rural to urban society. My focus is on the history of Seoul, which was the largest center of rural-urban migration and quadrupled in size during these decades. This is an important area to study because we see some of the most contentious questions in South Korea today – such as the relationship between development and inequality, and the relationship of the government to urban voters and urban protest – emerge for the first time in a big way. My dissertation looks at these questions from two main angles: the rise of shantytowns and the political struggles around their existence, and the development of the Gangnam region.


Researcher Spotlight: Ben Young

April 19th, 2017

Ben Young
Junior Researcher 2016-’17

Can you provide a small bio that outlines your hometown, education background, and a fun fact?
I was born and raised in Rochester, New York. I went to a public high school and then attended The College at Brockport, State University of New York, which is a small state school located 20 miles outside of Rochester. I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SUNY Brockport and I’m now pursuing my PhD at George Washington University in DC. I’m very proud to be from Western New York (which is not New York City!) and I’m still quite close with my high school buddies. One fun fact about myself (more like a weird fact about myself) is that I memorized the nicknames of all Division 1 colleges when I was a kid and, for some odd reason, I still remember them. I could have learned something useful, like Chinese, but instead I memorized nicknames of college sports teams.

Can you provide a brief overview of your research/dissertation?
My dissertation looks at North Korea’s relations with the Global South during the Cold War era. Many people don’t realize that up until about the mid-1970s, North Korea was ahead of South Korea in most indicators of economic output. This had a massive effect on the foreign policies of the two Koreas. During the 1960s and 1970s, there were many newly independent, postcolonial countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, which is what I refer to as the Global South. These countries had to choose whether to diplomatically recognize North or South Korea. The choice was not as obvious back then as it might be today. So, for my dissertation, I trace the history of North Korea’s links to Latin America, Africa, and southern Asia. During the Cold War era, North Korea often gave financial and military assistance to many postcolonial countries. The isolated and rogue North Korea, that we know today, is a relatively new phenomenon. I think it is important to historicize North Korea in order to better understand their worldview and policies. Since its inception, North Korea has been a revolutionary country that sees itself as under siege from an aggressive and morally corrupt world. During the Cold War era, this worldview resulted in a proactive foreign policy. Now, North Korea’s foreign policy is reactive.

What inspired you to choose this research? What got you interested in North Korea?
I was very interested in Russian history when I was an undergrad at SUNY Brockport. I took all of the Russian history courses I could at the time. However, I really wanted to study a country that was still communist so I read every book I could on North Korea. I became obsessed with the place. My first trip abroad was actually to North Korea in 2012. Most recent college graduates to Cancun or Paris. I went to Pyongyang. So, that trip just propelled me further into North Korean studies. I still have good friends from that trip to Pyongyang. It was full of interesting characters. As for this specific research topic, I found that most contemporary analyses of North Korea lack historical depth. I think history is very important for understanding such an opaque country. With historical analysis, you can establish patterns in North Korean actions and make their seemingly unpredictability more predictable. Also, the history of North Korea’s foreign policy, specifically its relations with the Global South, is severely under-researched but critically important. Just look at the recent killing of Kim Jong Nam. Where did it happen? It wasn’t in North Korea or China. It was in Malaysia. That did not surprise me. For a long time, North Korea has conducted nefarious activities in Southeast Asia. It’s been a space where the North Korean leadership feels quite comfortable conducting violence against it political rivals.

What do you hope to do with this research? What are some of your future goals?
I hope to turn my dissertation into a book and eventually become a tenured professor at a college/university or work in a Korea-related capacity with the U.S government or a think tank.

What is your experience with Korea? Have you lived in Korea before?
I visited North Korea in 2012, which propelled me into the field of Korean studies. A year later, I taught English at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul and then studied the Korean language at a tiny Buddhist school in the South Korean countryside. This is officially my third time living in South Korea and fourth time on the peninsula. I’ve also lived briefly in the ethnic Korean region of northeastern China.

What are your thoughts on the current and future relationship between the Trump administration and North Korea?
Well, it’s frankly worrying. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently said that a pre-emptive military strike on North Korea is not out of the question. That would trigger a full-out war and millions in both Koreas would die. I think this administration needs to do more than nothing, which is what Obama did. However, it needs to be well thought out and balanced. The North Koreans are master tacticians and may be able to manipulate the next ROK president (who will probably be a leftist) and the inexperienced Trump administration.

If you had to sum up one fact for people to learn about North Korea, what would it be?
That’s a difficult question to answer, as there is a lot of misinformation out there on North Korea. It’s important to remember that North Koreans are not automatons but people with their own emotions, beliefs, and fears. They will be the agents of change in that country.

What do you do in your spare time in Korea?
I’ve recently become interested in South Korean cinema and watch 1-2 movies per week. In the future, I’d love to teach a course on South Korean cinema. My favorite South Korean movies are The Wailing and Memories of Murder. South Korean cinema is very similar to Russian literature. That might be why I like it so much. If people abroad really want to understand Korean culture, watch South Korean movies.

Do you have any advice for those interested in conducting research in Korea?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Whether it’s a librarian or an establish professor in your area of study, don’t be afraid to shoot them an email or ask them in person. South Koreans will go out of their way to help you once you make the first move. It can be quite nerve-wracking to do so but it’s worth it in the end.

Do you have any tips on learning Korean?
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. As someone who had to take weekly speech lessons as a kid, language, let alone a foreign language as difficult as Korean, has never come easy to me. When I initially started studying Korean, I really struggled. However, I kept with it and have improved a lot since I first started. What really helped was a summer studying Korean at Middlebury Language School. Middlebury requires that you speak only in Korean. That really improved my Korean and made me feel more comfortable making mistakes in the language. If you are afraid of making mistakes in Korean, you will never approve. The best people to practice Korean with are taxi cab drivers in Seoul. Most do not know any English and do not slow down their speech for you.

What’s your favorite part about living in Korea?
South Korea is a really safe country. That might seem absurd to some Americans considering the fact that the neighbor up north can cause quite the ruckus from time to time. However, on a local level, this is a safe country and I’ve heard many stories of foreigners accidentally leaving stuff in the Seoul subway and having it be promptly returned to them. In America, that stuff is gone and most likely re-sold on Ebay within a day. Also, South Koreans are active participants in their democracy. They don’t take it for granted. I think many Americans take democracy for granted and forget that democracy is not the norm in much of the world. I will have to say though that I find the excessive consumption and emphasis on beauty in South Korea to be repulsive at times. This almost singular focus on wealth and image creates a rather toxic and stifling atmosphere. I don’t think young South Koreans are very happy and many want to leave South Korea and live abroad. There is too much pressure on young South Koreans to conform to unrealistic standards that South Korean society has placed on them.

Is there anything else you would like to say?
I want to thank my family for being so supportive of my Korea-related endeavors. I don’t come from a family of academics but my entire family has been so kind, loving, and supportive of my academic pursuits. I really appreciate that because getting a PhD is not an easy or quick path to take.

 

Ben Young is a Fulbright Junior Researcher in Seoul (2016-2017), and a PhD candidate in East Asian history at George Washington University.


Researcher Spotlight: Katelyn Hemmeke

January 21st, 2017

PC: Andrew Le from http://www.drewle.com/

Can you provide a small bio that outlines your hometown, education background, and a fun fact?
I grew up in Hamilton, Michigan, a rural town on the west side of the state. I earned my BA in English, Spanish and French from Hope College and my MA in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Fun fact: I once met G-Dragon’s dad.

Can you describe your research? How are you usingpersonal narratives as a method of empowerment?
My research focuses on Korean transnational adoptees and their experiences with birth family search and reunion. The birth family search process is quite difficult and most people aren’t able to find their birth families; a recent article in the Korea Herald stated that from 2012-2015, only 14.7% of the nearly 5,000 adoptees who searched during those three years were able to reunite with their birth families, and that’s one of the highest statistics I’ve read regarding birth family search success rates. I’m interested in seeing if I can pinpoint anything about the birth family search process that might shed light on ways to improve post-adoption services and increase adoptees’ chances of finding their birth families. As a literature scholar, I’m also interested in discourse analysis and the ways adoptees utilize their personal narratives as acts of personal empowerment and/or political resistance. Adoption discourse has long been constructed and controlled by adoption agencies and adoptive parents, with the voices of adoptees and birth families kept in silence. It’s pretty fascinating to analyze the ways that adoption agencies and adoptive parents use language to perpetuate these kinds of power structures — and the ways that adoptees use language to push back.

What inspired you to choose this research?
I’m a Korean-American adoptee myself, so I obviously feel personally invested in anything having to do with adoption issues. There’s not much research out there regarding birth family search and reunion, particularly the latter. The media tends to display a very one-dimensional image of birth family reunion — a sentimental moment in which the long-lost birth mother and adoptee tearfully embrace, and after that, they live happily ever after. However, it’s much more complicated than that due to the language and cultural barriers that often stand between transnational adoptees and birth families, and the story doesn’t end with that single moment of reunion. The adoptee and family have to continue navigating their relationships — with each other, with the rest of their family members — and all the trauma they’ve suffered from their separation doesn’t magically disappear just because they’ve reunited. No one really talks about how hard and complicated all of that can be, which is why I hope to shed some light in adoptees’ own words through their personal narratives.

This picture is from my last few days as an ETA. My students always worked so hard and showed me so much love — I’m so lucky to have had the chance to spend two years with them!” –Katelyn Hemmeke

How does it feel returning to Korea after being an ETA? Can you describe a little about your experience as an ETA?
I love being back in Korea. This isn’t my first time back since my ETA days — I came back once for my students’ graduation and another time to study Korean through the CLS Program — but it’s wonderful to be back for a longer period of time. It’s fun to revisit some of my favorite places, but it’s also mind-boggling to see how quickly things keep changing here.

I also loved being an ETA and have so many great memories from those two years. It was so fulfilling to work with fellow ETAs on projects like Infusion, YDAC, and FEIP. And teaching my Korean students is one of the most rewarding things I’ll ever do. I still keep in touch with a lot of them, and they continue to inspire me with their utter brilliance, unfailing work ethic, and genuine warmth.

What do you hope to do with this research? What are some of your future goals?
The big dream is to publish a book. I may go on for a Ph.D someday, but for now I think I’d like to work in editing or publishing, as well as continue to write essays and creative nonfiction.

What do you do in your spare time in Korea?
I’m taking intensive Korean language classes at Ewha, so that occupies a lot of my time. I love exploring Korea — there’s so much to do and see just in Seoul, but intercity travel is one of my favorite aspects of living in Korea because it’s so easy and cheap. I also try to stay pretty active among the adoptee organizations by going to their events and volunteering whenever opportunities arise. Most of the time, though, you can find me in a café somewhere reading, writing, or studying.

Do you have any advice for ETAs or those interested in conducting research in Korea?
Keep your ear to the ground for events and lectures happening around the city that are relevant to your research interests. Even events that aren’t directly related to your research interests are still worth attending, because you never know who you might meet there. Happy to talk to anyone interested in contacting me!

What’s your favorite part about living in Seoul?
There’s always something going on — maybe too much! There’s never enough time to attend all of the cool events happening here.

 

Katelyn Hemmeke is a current Junior Researcher with Fulbright Korea and also earned a grant as a Fulbright Korea ETA between  2012-2014.


Researcher Spotlight: Joyce Kim

October 21st, 2016

Joyce Kim, Junior Researcher 2015-2016
Education: B.A. University of Pennsylvania
Hometown: Allen, TX

Can you tell FKAR about your research? Does it relate with North Korean Defectors?
My research ended up going into two different strands:

Design Thinking Applied to NKD Education Programs
There are many government-assisted and NGO-run programs to facilitate the challenging resettlement process for defectors. However, the majority of these programs are designed without the end user (defector youth) in mind. Many of these programs also have alternative motivations that are religious and political. Among these programs, Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) is one of the few non-partisan, non-ethnic and non-religious groups that seek to help North Korean defectors. Embodying their non-affiliated status is their motto of “people over politics”, which emphasizes their orientation towards the North Korean people versus other NGOs’ approaches. LiNK seeks to provide continuous guidance and assistance to resettling North Koreans in a holistic fashion. Because of LiNK”s unique characteristics within the landscape of North Korea-related NGOs and government organizations, it makes for a compelling case study in answering this question: How do we create effective resettlement education programs for North Korean defector youth?

Using ethnographic methods and design research, I use LiNK as a case study to understand how education programs can be created for unique populations such as resettling North Korean defector youth. I argue that LiNK’s focus on defectors as individuals with potential versus a politicized minority group within South Korea are a best-practice perspective. The implications of this project include the utility of design research methods in targeting the needs of vulnerable and marginalized populations. The findings of this case study offer a unique approach to addressing the needs of North Korean defectors – an important policy issue in South Korea.


Political Resocialization of NKD Millennials
With a population of nearly 30,000 individuals, North Korean defectors are a unique population in South Korea. Currently, the ROK government spends $105 million annually to aid with defector resettlement. Yet, existing literature has pointed to the many difficulties defectors have adjusting to South Korea society. Defectors struggle with educational attainment, economic advancement, and mental health issues. Furthermore, the stark contrasts between the political systems of their past and present environments affect defectors’ self-conceptualization of citizenship in relation to the South Korean sense of nationalism. However, a small number of defectors have attained global prominence by sharing their personal accounts of human rights violations and by sending information into North Korea. Media coverage of these prominent defectors strongly influences public perception of defectors at-large. Through analyzing the results of twenty-one qualitative interviews with North Korean defector millennials, I argue that the pervasive coverage and activities of these globally prominent defectors promotes a homogeneous narrative of defectors amongst South Koreans. Such a narrative adversely affects the defector resettlement process. Further implications of the diversity of views in defectors’ resocialized political identities include the shifting landscape of South Korea’s national identity.

Why did you choose this research topic? What inspired you?
My paternal grandparents are from North Korea, so that’s where the interest originated. I wrote my college admissions essay on North Korean human rights and also wrote my undergraduate thesis on how South Korea’s education system perpetuates discrimination against North Korean defectors. Coming to South Korea to directly engage with the NKD community seemed like a natural next step.

That answers our second question about why you choose Korea.
Yes, my academic background (political science major, Korean studies minor) relates to my research topic and coming to Korea. I also thought as a Korean-American it would be neat to reconnect with my heritage. This year was the first time I was back in almost ten years.

Where do you hope to go from here? Where do you want to do your research and everything you’ve learned?
It’s really important that my research has some practical application. The education project is being adapted to how LiNK designs its education programs. As for the political resocialization program, assigned from the academic paper, I’m also planning to share my results through online articles (e.g. NK News- one of the largest independent news sources on NK)

In the short time, I’ll be doing a nonprofit fellowship next year in San Francisco.  I then want to go to grad school in international education. I plan to apply skills from this year and next year to become a professor who also applies her research to the relevant communities.

What do you like doing in your free time?
I enjoy traveling and exploring. I also like photography, biking, music festivals, contemporary art, body combat, and of course, reading.


Spring 2016 Featured Researcher: Dr. Perry Hamalis

March 9th, 2016

2015-16 Fulbright Senior Researcher and Underwood Visiting Professor at Yonsei University’s United Graduate School of Theology Dr. Perry HamalisK-Pop, companies like LG and Samsung, and the rise of Kimchi-infusion dishes – Korea is making waves in economic and cultural sectors with increasing global recognition. The 10th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) sited in Busan in 2013, however, called for a distinct break in the otherwise uniform news cycle – and for good reason. 2015-16 Fulbright Senior Researcher and Underwood Visiting Professor at Yonsei University’s United Graduate School of Theology Dr. Perry Hamalis not only took part in the seminal WCC assembly; he’s here for the year to study the longitudinal impact of the event on Korea’s Orthodox Christian community and presented his preliminary findings at the Fulbright Forum on February 12th, 2016 last week.

Dr. Perry Hamalis is known stateside as the Cecelia Schneller Mueller Professor of Religion at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, and made a splash at the WCC’s General Assembly in Busan as both a delegate and moderator for the organization. As an institution, the WCC has a profound global presence; Established after World War II, the WCC is the world’s most inclusive ecumenical organization with over 345 member churches across 110 nations. The ecumenical goal of the WCC is to promote visible unity and collaboration within and among Christian churches, and including its members and partnership with the Roman Catholic Church, has influence over 75% of the world’s Christian population – about 1.6 billion people.


Matt D'Arcy: Resident Rocket Scientist

June 7th, 2015


Meet our Junior Researcher and resident rocket scientist, Matt D’Arcy. He is currently working with the Space Systems Research Laboratory (SSRL) of Korea Aerospace University (KAU) to build a 3U CubeSat (a small satellite that is 30x10x10 cm) to launch into orbit and take pictures of the Earth.

Matt, who says he was interested in space from a young age thanks to his grandfather’s work on major U.S. space projects (including the Apollo missions and the Mars Viking Lander), came to Korea after earning his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Drexel University. His plan was to conduct mission operations of the satellite in orbit, but he soon discovered that due to the unique build-from-scratch approach of the lab and the enormity of the project, the launch would be significantly delayed.

Matt says he quickly found that his mechanical engineering background and research experience had not prepared him for the electronics and computer programming-heavy work that awaited him. Not one to back down from a challenge, he spent the first few months of his grant year powering through several textbooks and tutorials to attain working proficiency in several computer programming languages and expand his practical knowledge of electronics. Matt says that tackling the steep learning curve that awaited him was both the most challenging and the most rewarding part of the year.

I had to learn entirely new skill-sets, but I had the time to sit down and learn them well, down to the nitty-gritty, as I did not have other courses or work pressures in my day-to-day.

Since then, Matt has become more involved in many aspects of the design and building process, but has found perhaps his most notable contribution in an entirely different area: project management. Matt says he faced an internal and cultural conflict with the work culture in the lab – namely, 20+ hour days and/or 6-day-long stints. During the series of all-nighters incurred for the construction process of the test model in particular, he worried that staff exhaustion could potentially harm the final product due to the extremely detail-oriented nature of the work. After careful discussions, Matt helped create a shift in work structure and new guidelines for the next construction process, introduced new team management software, and also reorganized much of the clean room and lab and helped institute policies for disposing of needles and other waste.

In the time he carves out away from the lab, Matt enjoys spending time with friends, exploring the Hongdae-Sinchon area he calls home, and hiking and biking in the spring weather. We wish Matt all the best in finishing up his project and his grant year!


Aimee Lee: Bringing Worldwide Recognition to the Art of Hanji 

June 7th, 2015

Aimee Lee, a Fulbright Korea alumnus, was recently recognized for her work with hanji in the Korea Times. A graduate of Oberlin College, Lee’s interest in hanji, otherwise known as traditional handmade Korean paper, grew during a Chinese Art History course in college.

Motivated by her interest to learn and pursue Korean traditional art – which is widely unrecognized in comparison to Japanese and Chinese art – Lee learned the process of making hanji from Jang Seong-woo, a Korean traditional paper making artisan, in 2009. Since then, Lee has used her Fulbright research, experience, and skills to spread awareness of the hanji tradition and to open the Anne F. Eiben Hanji Studio. Her studio, the first and only Korean paper making studio in North America, is located at the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland.

Lee has also written the first English book on hanji, titled Hanji Unfurled: One Journey into Korean Papermaking (The Legacy Press, 2012).

To read more about Aimee Lee’s accomplishments, check out the original article on the Korea Times website.