The 2017 GWIKS Summer Study Abroad Panel began with an information session delivered by program instructor Prof. Jisoo Kim who gave a brief overview of the program’s aims and goals. The theme of this year’s summer program was “Exploring the Two Koreas”. Students visited various sites in South Korea to explore and use Korea as a lens to explore topics such as identity, division, reunification, and economic difference. Students were able to trace transnational processes of modernization, imperialism, colonization, and neoliberalism as they relate to Korean identity and culture. Prof. Miok Park, also a program instructor, attended the event to greet the audience and welcome back program participants, some of whom were inspired to join the program after taking one of her courses. Exchange students from South Korea were also invited to mingle with GW students interested in Korean studies.
Participants of the two-week program returned to present their research based on their experience in South Korea. The panel consisted of three exceptional students: Stephanie Sanders; Eric Rowe; and Noel Elizabeth Jiyu Xie. Stephanie’s presentation “Education and power in the Koreas” focused on how education was used in the two Koreas. Using social transformation theory and social reproduction theory as a theoretical framework, Stephanie compared the impact of education in both South Korea and North Korea. Stephanie noted that while education has greatly empowered the lives of South Koreans, it can also be used as a tool of political propaganda as was the case during the Chun Doo-hwan regime and in the everyday life of North Koreans. Eric’s presentation “Resilience: The Story of Korea” focused on the various sites he had visited, many of which he associated with the resilience of Koreans. Places such as Gyeongbokgung Palace, the War Memorial of Korea, DMZ, and the Constitution Court of Korea represent Korea’s history of resilience and perseverance, of difficult times and the strength to rebound. Finally, Noel’s presentation “The Culturalization of Politics and Power” took a critical theory approach in order to examine issues regarding human rights, gender gap, and liberal communism in relation to large conglomerate companies such as LG and Samsung. In addition, Noel points various social practices and phenomena to demonstrate how soft power currencies operate in South Korea.
At the end of their presentations, each panelist shared how the Study Abroad Program had strengthened their interest in Korean studies and how they would incorporate their experience into their future studies and careers. Afterwards, Prof. Jisoo Kim presented an award for best research paper to Eric Rowe for his paper “The Relevance of Sports in North Korean Politics”. The event concluded with a reception where all attendees were able to engage in conversation about their mutual interest in Korean studies.
The GWIKS Summer Study Abroad Program is open to all current graduate and undergraduate students at the George Washington University who are interested in pursuing Korean studies. For more information, please visit https://gwiks.elliott.gwu.edu/summer-study-abroad-program/.
Written by Soo-Jin Kweon