2019 Summer Study Abroad Program

GWIKS’s third two-week summer study abroad program in Seoul, South Korea ended on July 6, 2019 under the lead of Professor. Jisoo M. Kim and Professor. Insung Ko. During the program, eight GW students explored past, present and future of Korea through four main themes of Korean identities, culture, division, and reunification.

Students had the welcoming dinner and orientation on June 23, 2019 at the restaurant in Jongno, Seoul, and met with two instructors. During this two-week compact summer program, students were able to integrate readings, discussions, on-site lectures, and site-visits in learning Korean history, politics, film, and media.

For the first few days, students explored Korea’s past starting from the birth of the Joseon dynasty up to the modern times. They visited Kwanghwamun, Gyeongbok Palace, National Museum of Korea and Hangeul Museum to learn Korea’s history of dynastic kingdom. Students could also explore Korea’s 20th century history when visiting Seoul Museum of History, Seodaemun Prison, and National Museum of Korean Contemporary History. Through a tour in Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), students could see how one country divided into North and South.

The present of Korea was reflected through site visits to Ajou Institute for Unification, Korean Film Council, Constitutional Court of Korea, Korean National Diplomatic Academy, and MBC World. During these visits, students could incorporate their knowledge in various disciplines, such as politics, film, media and entertainment. At Hana Foundation, students had a workshop with North Korean defector students, where they discussed unification of Korea.

Towards the end of the program, students presented their experience in Korea based on this two-week summer study abroad program. The Students’ portfolio presentations of summer 2018 can be found here.

[May 8th, 2019] Lecture co-sponsored by KPN, PISA, and GWIKS: “Audacious Imagination for Peace”

On May 8th, 2019,  Korea Peace Network, Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia, and the GW Institute for Korean Studies co-sponsored a lecture with Mr. Lee Taeho, Chair of Policy Committee of People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy on “Audacious Imagination for Peace – Key to the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia”. Moderated by Professor Linda Yarr, Director of Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia (PISA), and assisted by his translator Jenny Jeong, Mr. Lee began by introducing himself as an NGO activist. The topic of his talk was on how civil society can make peace and how peace can be a solution to issues on the Korean Peninsula. Mr. Lee read the script he prepared along with his presentation. He explained that as South Korea had successfully addressed social challenges in a peaceful and democratic way, as shown from the example of the candlelight revolution that impeached the former president, Park Geun-hye, challenges in inter-Korean relations can be handled peacefully as well. The Panmunjeom Declaration announced as a result of the first inter-Korean Summit not only gave hope for a new era of peace on the Korean Peninsula, but also served as a communication channel for North-South Koreas and U.S. – North Korea. Calling for “a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula through complete denuclearization”, the Panmunjeom Declaration aimed to establish a permanent and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. Furthermore, the Singapore Joint Statement between U.S. and North Korea clarified that new and improved U.S.-North Korea relations and security assurance of the North Korean regime must be established in order  to achieve complete denuclearization. In other words, both U.S. and South Korea took a peaceful and mutually trusting approach to facilitate denuclearization of North Korea. Unlike the previous negotiations among North Korea, South Korea and U.S., the three countries are working together to build trust and mutually corresponding relationship. South Korea and U.S. decided to put of Joint military exercises, one of many obstacles in resolving conflicts with North Korea. North Korea agreed to seize nuclear tests and dismantle the Punggyre-ri Nuclear Test Site.

Despite the efforts of the leaders of North and South Korea and the U.S., there remains much more obstacles in tackling issues with North Korea. The second North Korea- U.S. Summit in Hanoi ended without reaching further agreements on North Korean nuclear weapons, and raised mutual mistrust between the two countries. Mr. Lee argued that in order for the ongoing negotiations to lead to the establishment of relations among two Koreas and other neighboring countries, the following perception and approaches should be faithfully maintained. South Korea and U.S. must recognize that their military superiority is overwhelming and threatening in the eyes of North Korea. Thus, South Korea and U.S. should initiate military and threat reduction plan in order to ease tension. Second, there needs to be an all-corresponding consensus on transitioning Northeast Asia into  a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone through joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Third, U.S. and the United Nations should take active steps to life some of their harsh sanctions imposed on North Korea. Such draconian economic sanctions only serve as obstacles in implementing inter-Korean agreements as well as inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation. Fourth, Northeast Asian maritime territorial disputes must be resolved in order to alleviate military tensions and resolve conflicts on the Korean Peninsula. Lastly, we must deviate from the stereotypes and taboos of the confrontational Cold War Era and gear toward a more optimistic and peace-oriented approach. Such approach has been proven to be more effective than the previous antagonistic, distrusting military confrontations. This shift toward peaceful means of conflict resolution has been detected not only on the Korean Peninsula, but in South China Sea as well. Mr. Lee explained that governments and citizens of concerned countries should initiate peaceful measures to make this seemingly “unrealistic” scenario a reality.

[May 6th, 2019] Korea Policy Forum: “North Korea and Myanmar: Divergent Paths”

On May 6th, 2019, GWIKS and the Sigur Center for Asian Studies co-sponsored Korea Policy Forum with Andray Abrahamian, 2018-2019 Koret Fellow at Stanford University, on “North Korea and Myanmar: Divergent Paths.” Moderated by Professor Jisoo M. Kim, Director of the Institute for Korean Studies at GW, Dr. Abrahamian began by sharing with the audience of his experience of working in North Korea. During his work at Choson Exchange, he has lived in Beijing and traveled to North Korea numerous times. When his wife got a job in Myanmar, he began to question “what needs to happen when a country is trying to come in from a period of isolation and reintegrate with the global community.” His research on comparing Myanmar and North Korea has been produced into his recent book, North Korea and Myanmar: Divergent Paths. Why has Myanmar transitioned successfully when North Korea could not?


Dr. Abrahamian explained that the reasons he decided to compare these two culturally different countries, with divergent histories, and different experiences of colonialism. Strategically they occupy similar positions for China at the heart of Asian landmass, as northeastern and southwestern buffer states. The people of both countries have suffered a long period of isolation and poverty by the choices made by their governments and external responses to their policies. Also, they are the only countries that almost completely sat out wealth creation project that stretch from Singapore to Japan that lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty. Some claim that Myanmar is still a basket case with ethnic cleansing and genocide still taking place. Dr. Abrahamian explained that while it is true, the current situation of Myanmar is in no comparison to that of North Korea. He argued that both countries, from their births, have faced existential security threat and only in the process of overcoming that threat, was the state of Myanmar able to turn its focus to the reasons for its isolation and address those sufficiently to reintegrate itself into the international community. North Koreans, however, are still trying to find ways to address that security threat. Both of those threats develop outside of the state emerge from their colonial period.


Dr. Abrahamian explained that in North Korea, every single person involved in publishing is heavily surveilled and everything that comes out in the media is subject to strict censorship, whereas, in Myanmar, the press is given more freedom and leniency. Even in controlling its borders, Myanmar’s borders are porous and easily accessible, whereas North Korean borders are among the most fiercely guarded places in the world. Snuggling takes place in both places, but in far less frequency in North Korea than in Myanmar. Finally, North Korea operates under a state ideology – the grand narrative of the Korean people righteously struggling for their independence against the hostile world; something absent in Burma. After comparing the conditions of North Korea and Myanmar, Dr. Abrahamian concluded that North Korea and Myanmar, despite their similar histories, have taken different paths mainly due to their government policies.

Co-sponsored Lecture by the Sejong Society of Washington, D.C. and GW Institute for Korean Studies: Sumona Guha, “East Meets South: South Korea – India Relations”

On April 30, 2019, GWIKS and the Sejong Society of Washington D.C. co-sponsored a lecture series with Sumona Guha, Vice President of Albright Stonebridge Group, on East Meets South: South Korea – India Relations. The moderator Garrett J. R. Redfield, the Programming Director of the Sejong Society and Asia-Pacific Analyst at the Institute for Defense Analyses, began with a brief introduction of South Korea and its significance. While most discussions about the Korean Peninsula revolve around North Korea and its security issues, South Korea presents equal importance in its development because it is the 11th largest economy in the world, despite its small size. In November  2017, President Moon called for the “New Southern Policy,” which focuses on the 3P’s: people, prosperity, and peace. Among the three, President Moon aims to achieve success through mutually reciprocal economic cooperation. India is an essential pillar of this policy because it shares Korea’s core values of democracy and a liberal market economy, and views India as an emerging global growth engine. South Korea seeks to enhance its economic relations with India by upgrading the ROK-India comprehensive economic partnership agreement and supporting India’s flagship initiatives.

Guha began by commenting that India’s foreign policy is changing and listed a few points about India and South Korea relations. India had long attempted to situate itself in Asia through its “Act East Policy” to form linguistic and cultural ties with East Asia. Under Prime Minister Modi, India has taken initiatives to branch out and develop diplomatic relations with other countries, including South Korea. Prime Minister Modi’s global leadership agenda was also a way to attract foreign investment to India and expand India’s involvement in world affairs. Under Modi, India has deepened its ties with ASEAN and reformed its economic plan, modeled after China’s economic growth. Prime Minister Modi and President Moon have visited each South Korea and India and taken initiatives to deepen cooperation and bilateral relations with each other. Balancing China is also another essential agenda for India through strengthening institutions that many countries operate in, rather than direct confrontation. As India grows, Guha expects to see more South Korean commercial companies involved in India. Unlike ASEAN that hold regular meetings, South Korea and India may face challenges in that their cooperation is not regular.

Lecture Series: Chisu T. Ko, “Korean Women, Argentine Documentaries: A Look at La Chica del Sur (2012) and Una Canción Coreana (2014)”

On April 25, 2019, GWIKS and Latin American and Hemispheric Studies co-sponsored a lecture series with Professor Chisu Teresa Ko, Associate Professor of Spanish and Coordinator of the Latin American at Ursinus College, on “Korean Women, Argentine Documentaries: A Look at La Chica del Sur (2012) and Una Canción Coreana (2014)”. Moderated by Professor Jisoo M. Kim, Director of the Institute for Korean Studies at GW, Dr. Ko briefly explained how the Argentinian filmmaker José Luis García produced his 2012 documentary La chica del sur (“The Girl From the South”). In 1989, José Luis García arrived to World Festival of Youth and students in Pyongyang, where he met Lim Su-kyung, a young South Korean student who attended the festival in representation of  the student organization Jeondaehyop. Lim had obtained the nickname Flower of Reunification by calling for reunification of the two Koreas, openly criticizing the South Korean Government, sympathizing with North Korea, and insisting on returning to South Korea through the military demarcation line in the DMZ. Enchanted by Lim’s bold and charismatic gesture of traveling to North Korea despite South Korea’s strict national security laws, García later searched her on the internet, traveled to South Korea and interviewed her in 2011. Dr. Ko then introduced another film Una Canción Coreana (“A Korean Song”), co-directed by two Argentine directors, Gustavo Tarrío and Yael Tujsnaider. An-Ra Chung, unlike Lim Su-kyung, is not a famous political icon, but a typical Korean immigrant in Buenos Aires. The documentary portrays Chung’s busy daily life, complex family and work, and a process of opening a new Korean restaurant. Chung is represented as a member of a Korean community that exist in a segregated bubble with little exchange with what is considered Argentine society.  

Dr. Ko points out how the films depict both Lim and Chung’s voices being silenced by gender power dynamics and changing political discourses. While Lim spoke in front of the international press and tens of thousands of spectators about the issues of inter-Korean relations, she is still expected to maintain the role of typical Korean women, preparing food for her guests and family and not participating in conversations. In the documentary, Lim remain silent and invisible when surrounded by older Korean men, and strangers comment on her appearance. Men would explain things to her, even her own political ideology, despite her status as a political icon, activist and professor. Even García himself seems more infatuated about the idea of fragrant Oriental woman and absorbed in the urge to liberate her from oppressive, patriarchal society, rather than addressing the issue of reunification or gender. The documentary  Una Canción Coreana highlights the contradiction of a superwoman who seems to lack a sense of self. Chung is a successful business woman, a voice teacher, a performer and a mother of two children. The film also display her as someone who lacks individual identity and describes herself in tentative terms. The image of Oriental with with lack of self identity maps out perfectly to her construction of herself in hierarchical relation to others, such as her mother-in-law. The film also displays that her husband Victor Ho making all the decisions for her and speaks for her.However, as the film continues, the audience witnesses Chung taking control of and becoming an agent in of the production of the film. The filmmakers’ portrayal reveals the Argentine imaginary of Korean women silenced in patriarchal society.   

Dr. Ko remarked that there has been a surprising surge of documentary films about the Korean community in Argentina recently. This sudden interest of Korean community follows simultaneous invisibility and hypervisibility of Koreans in the Argentine imaginary. Korean immigration to Argentina began in 1960s and peaked in 1990s. Reportedly more than 40,000 Koreans are settling in Argentina. Until recently, representation of Korean community in popular culture and media had been scarce and often negative. They were invisible because they were considered numerically insignificant, foreign, and highly unsimilarable group. But other times, they were hypervisible for the same reasons. The large influx of Korean immigrants in the 1990s was considered “yellow invasion” and Korean immigrants were accused of not learning Spanish, tax evaders, exploiters, and even slave holders. Stereotypes about Korean immigrants can be seen from the sketch character La Coreana performed in yellowface by comedian Juana Molina. La Coreana is described as supermarket owner who is very sneaky and smart with money, always finding ways to rip off her customers, but unintelligent in everything else and used broken Spanish. While much of explicit anti-Korean portrayal id disappearing from mainstream media, Korean descendants are often discriminated against as ultimate foreigners. After discussing the representation of Koreans in Argentine media, Dr. Ko concluded the lecture by arguing that within the realm of representation of Koreans and Asians at large in Argentina, these films exemplify an important turning point. Within the problematic new model of Argentine multiculturalism based on a system of recognition that maintains the hegemony of the recognizer and essentializes the recognized, the position of Asians in Argentina is especially problematic. While Asians have been highly visible as instruments of multiculturalism, they were considered outsiders, exotic foreigners locked in Argentine ideology of Orientalism .       

Korea Policy Forum: Troy Strangarone, “The Implications of Demographic Decline for South Korean National Security”

On April 4, 2019, GWIKS hosted its very first Korea Policy Forum with Troy Stangarone, Senior Director of Congressional Affairs and Trade at Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI) on “The Implications of Demographic Decline for South Korean National Security”. Moderated by Professor Celeste Arrington, Korea Foundation Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, Mr. Stangarone began his lecture by introducing two theories on demographics and national security: geriatric peace and increase in instability. He explained that, according to the Geriatric Peace theory, as the population ages, economic growth will slow down, with the decline in the population in the workforce and more capital spent on welfare. This is problematic in that the government has less to spend on defence. He also pointed out that not all countries will age at the same rate, leading to weakening of security in countries with lower birth rates, particularly South Korea. According to the Increasing Instability theory, countries with younger population will likely transition to neo-authoritarianism (for example, China or Russia), but will not transition to high-income states (for example South Korea and Taiwan), causing international instability. In countries with multi-ethnicity, some ethnicities will rise while others decline, based on their rate of aging population.

Mr. Stangarone then presented a graph of prospects on South Korean demographic trend. The graph displayed three possible trends in South Korean population from 2015 to 2040. As he pointed out that in 2018, South Korea’s total fertility rate had reached below 1 at 0.98, predicted that the potential trend in South Korean population will be somewhere between medium and low trends predicted by the UN. He revealed concern that if South Korea’s population trend moves closer to the low variant, by 2040, 16.5 million people leaving the workforce, decreasing South Korea’s labor pool by half. When added with South Korea’s relatively long life expectancy, there will be less people in the workforce to support the aged population, while more aged population will be in need of support. This is critical in that it will decline economic growth and increase health care costs. He then mentioned that South Korea has the highest level of aged poverty in OECD at 45.7%, along with high rate of old age suicide. South Korea’s declining birth rate can result in social and economic problems in more ways than one.

As far as security, such trend will lead to less capital to spend on national defense and decline in the young population to serve in the military. With South Korea currently confronting North Korea, the size of South Korean military is particularly crucial. Mr. Strangarone then listed some of the Moon administration’s initiatives to resolve the issue: downsizing the military, reducing mandatory service time, shifting reliance from manpower to artificial intelligence, replacing some jobs formerly held by the military with civilians, and budget increase of 7.5% for five years. As he continued to list some of other potential options, he clarified that these suggested solutions are not silver bullets to resolve the problem. The potential options he mentioned includes: tax, healthcare, and pension reforms, labor market reform and raising the retirement age, increased female economic participation, defence reforms, artificial intelligence, and immigration. Among these options, he found that defence reforms to be the most promising. By eliminating the requirement of eight years in reserves, semi-professionalizing the reserves and providing greater income source for the core group of dedicated professionals, the efficiency of the military will increase.

Lecture Series, “Paintings, Songs, and Board Games: Travels to Kŭmgangsan in Late Chosŏn Korea (1600-1900)” with Maya Stiller

On March 7th, 2019, GWIKS hosted a lecture series with Professor Maya Stiller, Assistant Professor of Korean Art and Visual Culture at the University of Kansas, on “Paintings, Songs, and Board Games: Travels to Kŭmgangsan in Late Chosŏn Korea (1600-1900)”. Moderated by Dr. Jisoo M. Kim, the Director of the GW Institute for Korean Studies, Dr. Stiller began by introducing facts about the field of Korean art history. She explained that the field of Korean art history is a relatively new field, compared to Japanese and Chinese art histories. As she introduced some of the overseas scholars who led the study in Korean art history, she noted that most of these scholars focused on painting. Another significant trend in not only Korea but Europe and the United States as well is a study in the 20th century and contemporary Korean art, particularly from the Colonial Era. By looking at a broad range of visual and material objects, Dr. Stiller’s current book project combines the study of visual and material objects with literary source materials and historical records and widens the scope of interdisciplinary research of Korean art history. She argued that Kŭmgangsan was a status pilgrimage site. From the 16th century onward, Late Chosŏn travelers traveled to Kŭmgangsan to garner social and cultural capital by visiting sites that famous scholars had previously visited. Travels to Kŭmgangsan were seen as an indicator of one’s elite status. Paintings, songs, and board games were methods for people who could not physically travel to Kŭmgangsan to virtually travel there and obtain cultural capital. Then Dr. Stiller proceeded to explain travel routes to Kŭmgangsan were so time-consuming and expensive that only a few people were able to afford it.

Dr. Stiller then presented the audience with photographs of Kŭmgangsan and explained the landscape and rock formations in detail. Late Chosŏn period Koreans used various methods -songs, paintings, and board games – to virtually travel to Kŭmgangsan in order to strengthen their social and cultural capital. After presenting examples of each method and interpreting them in detail, she concluded by enlightening the audience of how the perception of Kŭmgangsan changed in the 20th century and what the mountain means to the Korean people.


March 20, 2019, Panel Discussion co-sponsored by the GWIKS and the Sigur Center

On March 20, 2019, GWIKS and Sigur Center for Asian Studies co-sponsored a panel discussion with Professor Celeste Arrington, Korea Foundation Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, Director Yuki Tatsumi, Co-Director of the East Asia Program and Director of the Japan Program at the Stimson Center, Professor Mike M. Mochizuki, Japan-U.S. Relations Chair in Memory of Gaston Sigur at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, and Professor Ji-Young Lee, C.W.Lim and Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies at American University’s School of International Service, on “Japan-South Korea Relations in Crisis: Prospects for Reconciliation and Security Cooperation in East Asia”.

Moderated by Professor Jisoo M. Kim, Director of the Institute for Korean Studies at GW, the panels initiated their discussion with Professor Arrington’s remark on South Korean Supreme Court’s order in October 2018 against Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal to compensate plaintiffs. In November 2018, a similar ruling for two batches of plaintiffs came out. In both of these complicated and multi-faceted legal disputes, South Korean Supreme Court requested compensations for those who were forced into physical labor and sexual slavery. Japanese sources are referring to the claimants as wartime labors instead of forced labor. The underpaid or unpaid labors have been subject of legal disputes for over two decades and since the 2012  ruling, more than five South Korean courts have agreed with the rulings that 1965 basic treaty between Japan and South Korea did not erase individual’s rights to claim compensation. However, the 2018 ruling was based on a new layer of logic that the entire Japanese colonial rule period was illegal. In addition, South Korean Truth Commission regarding forced mobilization of workers has documented that some 300 Japanese firms were involved in the disputed labor and more than 200,000 Korean workers were mobilized workers. These legal processes have much more political and socio-political implications than mere victory in court and have ignited political complications between the Japanese and South Korean governments.

Director Tatsumi began her remarks by mentioning the fire control radar lock-on incident in December 2018. Japanese Ministry of Defense issued an announcement that South Korean Navy destroyer directed its fire-control radar at Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force’s surveillance aircraft. Both Japanese government and South Korean Navy presented conflicting claims about the incident, blaming each other. The Japanese government claimed that the aircraft attempted to communicate with the vessel using three different radio frequencies but received no response. The South Korean Navy responded that the destroyer was in waters for humanitarian rescue mission and that the Japanese aircraft was flying at a dangerously low altitude. Despite efforts to resolve the issue at working levels, both sides have not yet reached a consensus. Director Tatsumi highlighted that the reason this incident that escalated to near warfare between Japan and South Korea and has not yet been resolved pertains to the current dysfunctional state of Japan-South Korea relations and reveals how grave the conflict between the two nations is. The underlining sectors of Japan-South Korea relations are: business community and defense. She revealed concern about the prospects of the Japan-South Korea relations, since both of the sectors have been damaged,

Professor Mochizuki argued that Japan-South Korea relations is not locked in a permanent state of historical animosity as he drew on public opinion poll data that suggests gradual improvement on South Korean perspective on Japan over the past years. The percentage of South Koreans who have a negative impression on Japan has declined from 76% to 50% and the percentage of South Koreans who have positive impression of Japan has increased from 12% to 28%. According to one Japanese research, 77% of the Japanese do not trust South Korea. However, since 1998 Obuchi-Kim Summit and joint declaration, there has been gradual improvement in affinity of Japan toward South Korea and over 60% of Japanese had favorable feelings toward South Korea. Along with social and cultural exchanges, efforts of political leaders on both sides contributed in the de-escalation of harsh feelings toward each other. Professor Mochizuki claimed that it is the persistent criticism on historical issues that leads to the negative impression toward South Korea in the eyes of the Japanese. He believes that this is because the dominant narrative in Japanese colonial past is the conservative narrative and that unless this narrative changes, the conflict between the two nations cannot be resolved.

Professor Lee listed three major drivers in South Korea-Japan relations that may explain the high level of tension between the two nations: South Korea’s hesitancy on its China policy, weakened link of North Korea’s propagation and policy coordination that previously brought the two nations together, and collapsed earlier agreements on historical issues. Current South Korean government’s prioritization inter-Korean reconciliation has not only jeopardized South Korea-U.S. relations, but South Korea-Japan relations as well. She claimed that South Korea’s strategic hold toward rising China does not naturally converge with that of Japan. Despite China having historically been the sole power until the 20th century, Japan and Korea had never formed an alliance to contest China. Even to this day, South Korea is geographically and politically (regarding reconciliation with North Korea and reunification) more vulnerable to China compared to Japan, and thus in a harder position to form alliance against China. South Korea and Japan, while having been constantly disagreeing on numerous terms, have always been a common approach toward North Korea: strong deterrence. However, with the two U.S.-North Korea summits conducted recently and current Moon Jae-in administration striving to reconcile inter-Korean relations, this link of mutual antagonization toward North Korea is weakened. Professor Lee claimed that the currently South Korean government has little incentives to improve relations with Japan.

The Soh Jai Pil Circle on Contemporary Korean Affairs: John Merrill, “The Jeju 4.3 Incident, Korea’s ‘Dark History,’ and Its Implications for North Korea Policy.”

GWIKS hosted a Soh Jaipil Circle event on February 14th, 2019 with John Merrill, the former chief of the Northeast Asia Division in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, on “The Jeju 4.3 Incident, Korea’s ‘Dark History,’ and Its Implications for North Korea Policy.” Moderated by Professor Celeste Arrington, Dr. Merrill began by explaining that what he refers to as the “Dark History” of Korea is so because the South Korean government has deliberately buried it. He explained that post-World War II history of Korea has been corrupted by series of authoritarian South Korean governments and only recently has it begun to be corrected. Dr. Merrill then pointed out that the tone of U.S. media coverage on current issues between U.S. and North Korea is filled with cynicism and bad analysis, and lacks self-awareness. He criticized that most of the commentators on the Korean issue are not keeping track of their own predictions. He then mentioned a Chosun Ilbo story from a few days before on South Korean legislatives’ meeting with the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. In particular, he pointed out Pelosi’s comment, “Well, I visited North Korea once before twenty years ago,” explaining that it exemplifies the misfortunate shallowness of many commentaries in seeing North Korea as ‘the land that time forgot.’ While everything in Korean Politics is changing rapidly, no one seems to be keeping track.

He then shared his personal experience with the dark history. When he first joined the State Department in the spring of 1987, he was on the Korean government’s blacklist as a banned author. Although he was soon removed from the blacklist, he had faced difficulties in performing his duties to interface with South Korean agencies, foreign ministry and the National Intelligence Service. Dr. Merrill explained that President Donald Trump lacks deep understanding of Modern Korean history and is totally disconnected from Washington establishment of Korean Watchers. His approach towards North Korea is quite different from that of U.S. media and commentators. It is based on feel, empathy, and schmoozing. Apparently, the schmoozing technique is working effectively with Kim Jong-un, particularly after being demonized for so long.

The manhwa, or comic strip, Dr. Merrill presented depicted the Monggumpo Operation of August 1949. In 1949, the South Korean navy launched a sneak attack on the North Korean fleet, the West Coast headquarter at Mongumpo on the personal orders of President Syngman Rhee, cutting out the entire U.S. military chain of command. The operation had been concealed because it suggests that South Korea was perhaps partially responsible for the outbreak of the Korean War, until President Lee Myung-bak revealed it to send a warning to North Korea. Dr. Merrill then proceeded to explain another hidden incident in South Korean history, the Jeju Uprising. An estimate of 30 thousand people who opposed separate election under U.S. occupation of South Korea. The police and military forces killed large number of the residents of the Jeju Island who protested and rioted in multiple occasions.

Dr. Merrill concluded the lecture by pointing out that the nuclear weapon issue on the Korean Peninsula is an action-reaction dynamic, initiated by the U.S. deploying nuclear weapons in South Korea. In order to resolve conflicts, we must take alternative methods than simply pointing fingers and blaming each other. He explained that North Korea is the way it is now because the U.S. helped create the deeply traumatized state through deterrence and threat.

February/March Blog Topic: Air Pollution in South Korea

Topic: Air Pollution in South Korea


Background: South Korea is facing hazardous level of air pollution. Clouds of thick smog and microdust had covered South Korea’s sky. According to CNN meteorologists, the level of microdust had reached AQI of 150-225, during the past couple of days. South Korean media, such as Yonhap news and JoongAng newspaper, reported that the microdust and air pollution is flying in from China and called out President Moon Jae-in for failing to raise the issue with China. To be specific, the Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science claimed to have evidence that a rise in fine dust during spring was partly due to massive numbers of fireworks used in China for Lunar New Year celebrations, citing a spike in potassium in the air as evidence. Researchers at the Seoul Institute and labs affiliated with the Ministry of Environment have claimed that China is more than 50 to 60 percent responsible for the fine dust polluting South Korea’s air. However, China denies such allegations, refuting that South Korea should track its domestic pollutants before blaming China.


Guiding Questions:

– What could be the reason that Asia, in particular, is suffering from such heavy smog and hazardous levels of pollution?

– What are some environmental policy measures that South Korean government can take to tackle air pollution issue without jeopardizing its relations with China?



The questions above are only suggestions; please feel free to take your own creative approach to the topic!



Submission Instructions:


– Posts should be approximately 300-1,000 words.


– Submissions will be accepted until Friday, April 5th.

2018 Summer Study Abroad Program



GWIKS’s second two-week summer study abroad program in Seoul, South Korea began on June 24th and ended on July 7th, 2018. During the program, the students explored Korean identities, division, reunification, and economic differences between the two Koreas. The theme for this year’s GW Institute for Korean Studies (GWIKS) Summer Program was “Korea in the 21st Century: Past, Present, and Future in the Age of Globalization.



The students gathered at a restaurant in Jongno, Seoul, on June 24th, for the welcoming dinner and met with the two instructors, Professor Jisoo M. Kim and Professor Miok Pak. Among the summer program participants, there were seven undergraduates and five graduates from various majors – Business, Biology, Anthropology, and International Affairs. Within the two weeks, compact site-visits were planned to help the students understand the complexity of Korea’s history and how it reflects in the current modern society. The purpose of the program was to have the students see firsthand Korea’s history, economic development, and culture from the lens of the border of the 38th parallel.



The first few days, students explored the past of Korea, from the birth of the nation up to the history of contemporary times. The students visited Gyeongbok Palace, Gwanghwamun, National Museum of Korea, Hangeul Museum, Seoul Museum of History, Seodaemun prison, National Museum of Contemporary History, and Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). They were able to learn when North and South was one country to how it was divided.




The students also visited sites that reflected the present of Korea, such as Ajou Institute for Unification, Hana Foundation, Korean National Defense University, and the Constitutional Court of Korea. They learned how the division of the country has affected the current situation of South Korea. In Hana Foundation, they had the opportunity to exchange with North Korean defector students to discuss about the unification issue. At the Constitutional Court of Korea, they met with Judge Chang-ho Ahn, who was deeply involved in the impeachment of the previous president and learned about the political and judicial issues of South Korea.












To further learn about the issues in South Korea, they visited Future Consensus Institute to learn about South Korea’s position in the East Asian region, and witnessed the Wednesday protest for Comfort Women issues, visited the Women’s Human Rights Museum to learn about the historical and social issues of South Korea. On the final site visit day, the students visited Google Korea to learn about IT industry and the U.S. Embassy to learn about the U.S. approach to public diplomacy in South Korea.


At the end of the program, the students presented their portfolios based on the two-week program. Alexis Simms was awarded the prize for giving the best portfolio presentation. The Students’ portfolio presentations of summer 2018 can be found here

The Soh Jai Pil Circle on Contemporary Korean Affairs: David Kang, “North Korea in 2019: More of the Same, or a Historic Opportunity?”

On January 23rd, 2019, GWIKS invited Professor David Kang, director of the USC Korean Studies Institute and Maria Crutcher Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California, to lecture on “North Korea in 2019: More of the same, or a historic opportunity?”. Moderated by Professor Celeste Arrington, David Kang began by claiming that deterrence has been and still is a successful tactic for North Korea. North Korea and the U.S. had repeatedly threatened and provoked each other, and boasted its military capabilities. Professor Kang argued that the situations have changed and that there is a substantial opportunity for a game changer, despite the conventional American view on North Korea –skepticism.

Dr. Kang claimed that North Korea’s recent actions are not spontaneous responses to sanctions and Trump’s threats, but rather a long-term strategy that North Korea had put in place. He presented Kim Jong-un’s New Year speech from 2017 that announced Kim’s commitments to provide for his people and prepare for ICBM and nuclear weapon. During Kim’s New Year speech a year later in 2018, Kim proclaimed that North Korea has achieved its long desired goal of “perfecting the national nuclear forces” through 59 missile and nuclear tests conducted in 2017. Dr. Kang explained that North Korea had been evidently planning such tactic for years. Previously North Korea’s strategy was “stop us before we g,” but in 2017, North Korea have presented that it has the capacity and potential for nuclear warfare. Along with North Korea’s long-prepared entry to the Olympics, North Korea’s tactics had opened the door for negotiation.

Dr. Kang then proceeded to discuss South Korea’s strategy by presenting a Gallup poll. The poll revealed that the majority of South Koreans and the Americans desired to solve North Korean nuclear problems through means of diplomacy, rather than military confrontation. South Korean President, Moon Jae-in’s policy agrees well with the demand of the public, as he has a progressive left-wing political orientation. Progressive South Korean presidents have historically attempted to rebuild and normalize relations with North Korea and Moon eventually engaged in multiple Inter-Korean summits with Kim Jong-un. Dr. Kang explained that South Korean policies toward North Korea include fundamentally stabilizing the DMZ in order to end the aggression between the two Koreas.

Dr. Kang claimed that the possibility of North Korea denuclearizing before any negotiations is slim to none, despite the motives of the U.S. However, North Korea had made small-scale progresses over the past year, such as ceasing nuclear tests for fourteen months, dismantling nuclear test sites, releasing arrested American citizens, and stopping many Anti-American propaganda. Dr. Kang claimed that it is crucial for the U.S. to take action and make progress with North Korea instead of remaining highly skeptical. He concluded the lecture by arguing that North Korea is not a problem to be solved. It is crucial to view it as a real country without deeply held and contradicting stereotypes about North Korea: North Koreans are brainwashed and that North Koreans desperately desire freedom. Americans often overlook the fact that North Koreans are people with powerful nationalist ideology.

Special Event: “Building Trust Through Music Diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula”

GWIKS hosted a concert and lecture event on December 17th, 2018 with Hyung Joon Won, a renowned violinist and activist, on “Building Trust through Music Diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula”. During his lecture, Mr. Won shared his vision on bringing peace and harmony to the currently divided Korean Peninsula through music.

After his astonishing performance of Beethoven’s Romance No.2, op.50, Estrellita (My Little Star) by Ponce, and Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen with pianist Yejin Lee, Mr. Won began by thanking Professor Jisoo M. Kim for providing an opportunity to perform and speak at GW. He explained that Daniel Barenboim, a pianist, conductor, and founder of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, was his inspiration and through Barenboim’s works, he learned that music can be integrated into diplomacy and the miraculous role music can have during historical events such as Ping-pong diplomacy of 1971, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and most recently, in the Pyeongchang Olympics. Music is a way to come close to one another, overcome hate and prejudice, and enable people listen to each another.

Mr. Won explained how music is an art that touches the depth of human existence and art of sound that crosses all borders. Mr. Won explained that the essence of music diplomacy is to have people of different countries to communicate through music and with their emotions. However, Mr. Won clarified that music does not automatically translate into peace between nations, but rather, it is a method to open the hearts of people. Furthermore, Mr. Won stressed the significance of establishing peace between North Korea and the United States in order to bring peace and reunification to the Korean Peninsula. Mr. Won concluded the lecture by remarking that he believes in the value of music and that despite all the conflicts going on around the world, the musicians are trying to create peace.

Soh Jaipil Circle: “Providing Humanitarian Aid in North Korea and Other Authoritarian Settings.”

GWIKS hosted a Lecture Series on November 29th, 2018 with Christy Gavitt, a global health consultant, on “Providing Humanitarian Aid in North Korea and Other Authoritarian Settings.” Christy Gavitt had worked for Peace Corps, Private Voluntary Organization Consortium for North Korea (PVOC), and had visited both North and South Korea multiple times throughout her career. Moderated by Professor Gregg Brazinsky, Christy Gavitt shared with the audience her knowledge about the obstacles in making sure the humanitarian aid reaches those in need.

As a solution to tackle the obstacles previously mentioned, Gavitt suggested that aid organizations physically get in contact with the subjects of aid and get in-depth experience of the country. During 1998 and 1999, Gavitt had visited North Korea on a humanitarian aid project organized by five U.S. private non-profit relief and development organizations. The objective of the project was to support agricultural rehabilitation & reconstruction via food-for-work repairs of flood-damaged river and reservoir embankments in five provinces of North Korea.

Unemployed rural/peri-urban adult industrial/factory workers in four provinces received tasks to repair embankments in exchange of U.S. maize. Gavitt and her team visited the sites, monitored the workers, and evaluated the process and quality of the project. During her observation, she had discovered that there are far more workers than registered, small monitoring staff, and rigid restrictions on site visiting.

Gavitt then proceeded to discuss the famine crisis in North Korea. She explained that some of the causes of the longstanding famine are: lack of fuel to run equipment, lift irrigation systems, and factories, as well as decreased subsidies from China and Russia, on top of natural calamities. The harsh situation forced people of Pyongyang to leave for rural areas to grow their own food and large percentage the population to survive on mixture of amaranth plant, maize powder, grasses and herbs. Gavitt points out the consequential malnutrition and high mortality rates. The greatest challenge is that the North Korean government wants as little foreign involvement as possible and places stringent control on outsiders. This policy had caused some NGOs to pull out from North Korea because they felt that there were too much control over their movements and freedom. The NGOs that did remain focused on technically-oriented projects, limited media, and had built favorable relationship with the central and local authorities. Gavitt concluded the lecture by highlighting the significance of physical presence in authoritarian regions and building positive relationships.

December Blog Topic: Refugees in South Korea

Topic: Refugees in South Korea

Background: South Korea joined the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in December of 1992 and became the first country in East Asia to have their own Refugee Act taking effect in 2013. Thousands of refugees from conflict zones such as Syria and Yemen seek asylum in South Korea today. Since the outbreak of war in Yemen in 2015 until 2017, only forty-nine Yemenis applied for asylum in South Korea. However, within 2018 alone, 561 escapees landed on Jeju Island as of June 20th, 549 of which applied for asylum. The majority of the refugees are young male from late teens to late 20s. This influx of the refugees ignited an uproar among South Koreans, which resulted in series of protests against entry of refugees where hundreds of South Koreans marched the streets of Seoul and Jeju Island in summer of 2018. According a poll survey conducted in July 2018, 53.4% of South Koreans opposed admitting the entry of Yemeni refugees. Petition demanding the Moon Jae-in administration to stop accepting refugees garnered over 700,000 signatures, the highest number since the Blue House opened its online petition system in 2017. Some of the proclaimed reasons behind the opposition were: cultural conflicts, likely increase in crime rates-especially sex crimes, potential terrorist attacks, and more competition in the already saturated job market. The Blue House responded to the petitions by including Yemen in the list of countries prohibited from entering Jeju Island visa-free, forbidding more Yemeni refugees from entering South Korea to claim refugee status. The Moon administration also prohibited refugees from leaving Jeju Island to enter mainland Korea. On August 1st, Justice Minister Park Sang-ki and the Blue House’s new media secretary, Chung Hye-seung affirmed that withdrawing from the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the international treaty that sets forth basic international obligation toward refugees, nor would it abolish Jeju’s visa-free policy would be realistically problematic. However, in order to comply with the worries of South Koreans, Blue House promised to test refugees for drugs, screening them for a criminal record, and strengthening patrol in Jeju.


Guiding Questions:

– Some European countries, such as France, Germany, and United Kingdom had been accepting refugees long before South Korea. Considering the outcomes of preceding cases in Europe, can we predict the outcome of refugee entry in South Korea?

– What are some of the things to consider when providing asylum for refugees?

– South Korean reaction to Syrian and Yemeni refugees are quite different from that to North Korean defectors. What could be the reason for that?

– According to a recent survey, the groups that expressed strongest objections to refugee admission were: women (61%), middle-class (62%), and people in their 20s (70%) and 30s (66%). This is unusual because women and younger generation tend to lean left, the side more open to immigrants and refugees. Why do you think that these groups that usually comprise high percentage of more liberal values would also be the ones opposing strongest?


The questions above are only suggestions; please feel free to take your own creative approach to the topic!


Submission Instructions:

– Posts should be approximately 300-1,000 words.

– Submissions will be accepted until Saturday, January 5th. 

Lecture Series: “Democratization and Gender in Postcolonial South Korea”

On October 31, 2018, Eunkyung Kim, Research Professor of Research Institute of Asian Women at Sookmyung Women’s University and Administrative Director of Korean Association of Women’s History, gave a lecture on “Democratization and Gender in Postcolonial South Korea.” Gender discriminations were concealed and expected to disappear after democratization. However, hate speech and violence against women and sexual minorities not only persisted, but  increased after Korean democracy has been stabilized. Dr. Kim questioned what democratization meant for women in contemporary South Korea.

Dr. Kim opened the lecture by sharing her experience as a college student. During the democratization movement of South Korea, young intellectuals were involved in series of protests. Female students had erased their femininity by not wearing make-up and skirts and using terms such as ‘hyung’– a term used by male to refer to an older male – to refer to their male counterparts, because femininity was perceived as emotional, passive, and wasteful. At the same time, some female students utilized those feminine qualities to avoid arrest.

Dr. Kim also introduced two Korean films: To You, From Me (1994) and Madame Freedom (1956) to address society’s perception on familial values, women’s sexuality, and intellectuals who led the protests. In the film To You, From Me, the director criticizes the popular intellectual ideas, by displaying an elite male activist expressing his arrogance and patriarchal attitude to the heroine. In the scene in which he engages in a violent, forced intercourse with her while yelling “Anti-fascism, anti-Americanism.”, the director points out his hypocritical behavior of committing another form of violent crime as he criticizes authoritarianism. Madame Freedom depicts western influence as threat to Korean ethnic values and traditions. Dr. Kim addressed that male intellectuals at the time were concerned about women becoming “Americanized” and spoiling the purity of Korean ethnicity. The main character in the film was an archetype of “wise mother, good wife” in a traditional patriarchal household until she was introduced to western culture. She began to have an affair with her dancing partner next door, who was “Americanized”. The man she has an affair with decorated his house with American goods and always spoke about liberty and human rights. Her husband was also having an affair, but his infidelity was portrayed as one that did not threaten the marriage and familial values. As the film explicitly depicts, the South Korean society perceived western culture as something that destroys traditional gender roles and alters female sexuality.

Dr. Kim then addressed the New Family Law and its implication on everyday lives. While the law seemed to support gender equality, it was actually gender discriminatory. The New Family Law allowed women to take legal actions, buy and sell property without permission from their spouses and even allowed free divorce. Male lawmakers were not concerned with women’s rights, but tried to evaluate women’s issues under a broader scope of democratization and modernization. Dr. Kim concluded the lecture by stating that the New Family Law did not reflect the voices of women, failed to break gender inequality, and did not enhance gender sensitization.

Co-sponsored event by Partnerships-International Strategies-Asia (PISA) and GW Institute for Korean Studies: “North Korean Art: Transcending Ideologies”

On October 24, 2018, GWIKS and Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia (PISA) co-sponsored a lecture by B. G. Muhn, a visual artist and professor at Georgetown University Department of Art and Art History, on “North Korean Art: Transcending Ideologies”. Dr. Muhn, a North Korean art scholar, shared his experiences of traveling to North Korea with the audience. In North Korea, Dr. Muhn had visited art museums, Pyongyang University of Fine Arts, and studios of North Korean artists, whom he had interviewed his research pursuit on Chosonhwa.

Dr. Muhn explained that Chosonhwa, traditional Oriental ink wash painting on rice paper, is a unique form of art that integrates North Korean political, cultural, and historical context. Chosonhwa displays Socialist Realism, revealing the North Korean political ideology embedded within the society. Dr. Muhn pointed out that in some of the paintings, characters maintain surprisingly aloof and peaceful composure despite the chaotic surrounding conditions, such as stormy sea and battle. He claimed that such depiction derives from the aspiration to maintain peace and dignity in audacious situations, perhaps a prevailing Confucian ideology.

In addition to the political ideology it displays, Chosonhwa possesses unique styles of outlines, use of water, color, and brushstrokes that distinguish it from Hankukhwa, the South Korean counterpart. For example, Dr. Muhn mentioned the vibrant use of color and delicate brushstrokes unique to Chosonhwa.

With the development of distinctive characteristics, Chosonhwa has considerably contributed to the unique characteristics of North Korean contemporary art since the late 1960s. In the exhibition, “North Korean Art: Paradoxical Realism”, at the 2018 Gwangju Biennale, Dr. Muhn has acknowledged the significance of North Korean art by solely showcasing Chosonhwa works.

Lecture Series: “Book Talk: North Korean Human Rights and Transnational Advocacy”

Director Jisoo M. Kim opened the event with welcoming comments and introduced the panelists.

Professor Andrew Yeo, Associate Professor of Catholic University of America, presented the new book “North Korean Human Rights: Activists and Networks” that he co-edited and shared his analysis on activism and advocacy networks for North Korean human rights.

There are increased global concerns regarding human rights abuses in North Korea. Some actors from the advocacy network, such as NGOs, Governments, grassroots groups, Think Tanks, and individuals are engaged in dealing with the problem. All of them share a common goal despite their different political positions or the way of approach. The book explains that the network of North Korean human rights consists of three-dimensional structure: domestic, transnational networks, and North Korean perspectives. The linkage between domestic and transnational networks explains the specific domestic issue (i.e., North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens) or mutual relations among them (i.e., Global pressure on South Korean legislative). There are three main questions raised and answered on the advocacy issue, which are emergence, impact, and theory. The author stressed that they differ over time and across space.

Professor Celeste Arrington, Korea Foundation Assistant Professor at the the George Washington University, introduced chapter four of the book, which she contributed in writing. It examined how the North Korean human rights issues included abductions. She explained the brief timeline of how abduction issue was handled internationally and how North Korea related activist groups in Japan are involved in formatting public understanding regarding not only for the abduction issues but also broader human right issues.

Mr. Greg Scarlatoiu, Executive Director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, recommended the book by expressing admiration of how the book covered the comprehensive history of North Korean human rights that several important organizations and networks have played a key role to speed up the movement towards North Korean human rights since the 1990s.

SJP Circle “Post Trump-Kim Summit: What is the Next Step?”

On September 11, 2018, GWIKS invited three experts in inter-Korean relations from South Korea for a talk regarding the next steps after the post Trump-Kim summit. At the start of the event Director Jisoo M. Kim of the GWIKS explained the background of the discussion and introduced Professor Immanuel Kim. Immanuel Kim served as a facilitator for the event and introduced the three panelists.

“North Korea Issue: Three-Level Games”

Dr. Sanghyun Lee, Senior Researcher of Sejong Institute, evaluated the summit in a perspective of what each country expected from the denuclearization agreement and stressed the importance of a complete denuclearization of North Korea. There was not much evidence of Kim giving up the nuclear weapons. Dr. Sanghyun Lee analyzed three reasons that made Kim join the negotiation table: confidence, fear, and mediation. Kim was confident of DPRK’s completion of national nuclear forces but unpredictable US policy by Trump made him concerned. The mediation by Moon and/or Xi also effectively played a role for him to come out and talk. However, the deep distrust of the US and further demand of North Korea were reconfirmed after the summit. The future would be composed of three dimensions; Inter-Korean Dimension, DPRK-US Dimension, and DPRK-International community dimension. The progress in each dimension should proceed concurrently for a successful global nuclear nonproliferation strategy.

“The Fate of Nuclear Weapons in North Korea”

Professor Yong-sup Han, Former Vice President of Korea National Defense University, emphasized the timeline of the North Korean nuclear program during ensuing generations of the Kim and compared the Singapore summit with previous North Korea denuclearization discussions in history. Defining denuclearization and using the right wording would have an impact on an effective negotiation with North Korea. “Verifiable dismantlement” should be used instead of denuclearization. He asserted that the US should lead in organizing verification teams, together with concerned countries and IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). He also emphasized that the DPRK-US meeting should be held in Washington D.C. instead of Pyongyang to effectively push the US’s agenda.

“A Paradigm Shift: Reverse-Kissinger Strategy”

Professor Youngjun Kim, from Korea National Defense University, proposed his interpretation of the two parties’ motivation for the summit. Kim’s motivation was to obtain domestic political support for his long-term regime and to become more independent from China. On the other hand, Trump was seeking to contain China by using North Korea. In that way, the US could expand its influence over South East Asia and Korea so that it can have a gray zone against China.

Joonho Kim’s “Economic Engagement with North Korea – Opportunities and Challenges”

On April 27, GWIKS Soh Jaipil Circle invited Dr. Joongho Kim to deliver his presentation “Economic Engagement with North Korea – Opportunities and Challenges”. Dr. Kim is a current Visiting Scholar at GW Institute for Korean Studies and previously worked as a senior research fellow at the Research Institute for North Korea and Northeast Asia Development at the Export-Import Bank of Korea. In his presentation, Dr. Joongho Kim covered a wide range of topics including the political nature of North Korean economy, its shortcomings, economic changes under the Kim Jong Un regime and its potential for economic growth. Furthermore, Dr. Kim’s talk emphasized the need to understand both the political and business factors that affect the economy of North Korea, and stressed the importance of assisting North Korea in maximizing its potential for economic development.  In addition, Dr. Kim pointed out several key tasks we must undertake to stimulate the future international investment and engagement in the North Korean economy. Firstly, we must anticipate signs of North Korea’s transitions and, secondly, properly evaluate inter-Korean economic cooperation. The presentation ended with a Q&A sessions where many of the questions asked by the audience related to Dr. Kim’s thoughts on which nation-state actor would be the most likely to actively seek out a participating role in the growth of North Korea’s economy.


Written by Soo-Jin Kweon

Soh Jaipil Sixth Talk: Angela Kim

On April 11, 2018, GWIKS hosted the Sixth Soh Jaipil Circle featuring Ms. Angela Kim, who gave her presentation titled, “International Legal Issues for a Unified Korea: Protection of Third Party Rights Under Pre-Existing Bilateral Treaties.” Ms. Kim is currently a Visiting Scholar at GWIKS and a PhD candidate in Law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She received her LLM from the George Washington University in 2015 and her Bachelor of Law from Handong Global University in 2014.

In her presentation, Ms. Kim discussed international law rules on bilateral treaty interpretation and state succession as related to a hypothetical future scenario of a unified Korea. Firstly, she spoke in depth about the law of state succession and highlighted 3 different waves of succession that occurred in recent history: (1) the era of decolonization (1950-74); (2) the era of de-sovietization (1990-96); and (3) various cases in the 21st century (e.g. South Sudan and Kosovo). Succession of states can be either partial or universal, with partial succession encompassing secession, cession, and the creation of newly independent states, and universal succession entailing dissolution and unification. For the Korean case, Ms. Kim specifically highlighted unification as the type of state succession, which can be further divided into (1) the merger of South and North Korea into an entirely new state; and (2) the incorporation of one into the other.

Secondly, Ms. Kim spoke about the legal foundation and the sources of international law, specifically highlighting Article 38(1) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, which denotes (1) conventions, (2) customs, (3) general principles of law present in many states, and (4) judicial teachings as the underlying foundation of international law.

Thirdly, she delved into how all of this applies to the Korean context. As remains customary for all successions, in the case of a unified Korea, any bilateral treaties that were signed with the DPRK or ROK regarding borders would remain unaffected for third parties. Additionally, treaties of a localized nature that deal with the use of territory (e.g. such as rights to fisheries) would similarly remain unaffected. Other treaties such as political or bilateral investment treaties would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Were unification to occur, it would most likely be the incorporation of the North into the South’s existing legal personality. Ms. Kim noted the German case as a precedent of incorporation that could be followed; furthermore, she detailed three general principles of law that would enable the protection of third party rights under pre-existing bilateral treaties with either of the two Koreas. The first was pacta sunt servanda, which stands as a basic principle necessitating that agreements be kept. Existing agreements are based on good faith and are in force, and a unified Korea could not unilaterally terminate these treaties. The second was rebus sic stantibus, or “things thus standing,” whereby unification itself could not be considered a fundamental change in circumstance that justifies unified Korea’s unilateral termination of or withdrawal from a pre-existing treaty. Lastly, the third principle Ms. Kim noted was pacta tertiis, which means that “agreements do not harm third parties.” For any pre-existing treaty to be nullified, unified Korea would have to obtain the consent of the respective third parties.

Ms. Kim concluded her presentation with a reiteration of her research findings and how these findings directly apply to the future of existing bilateral treaties with the two Koreas. Attendees had an opportunity to ask questions, provide feedback, and engage on a deeper level regarding her topic of interest.


Written by Bomie Lee

Lecture Series: Cho Hong Je

Dr. Hong-Je Cho, a Senior Research Fellow at the Korea National Defense University’s Research Institute for National Security Affairs and a Visiting Scholar at the Space Policy Institute at the Elliott School, gave his presentation on “North Korea’s Missiles: Past, Present, and Prospects.” Dr. Cho, who has served as a South Korean Air Force Officer for the past 29 years, shared with the audience his knowledge and insight into North Korea’s nuclear and missile program. He began by providing context on the rapidly evolving nature of the Korean peninsula’s security situation, in light of the diplomatic outreaches and proposals for summits following the PyeongChang Olympics.

Dr. Cho stated four different reasons as to why North Korea has been developing nuclear weapons and missiles. He stated, firstly, that North Korea desires to guarantee its survival, ultimately preventing regime change and military “decapitation” by the US. Secondly, North Korea seeks to bolster domestic support through such a program. Third, Dr. Cho claimed that this could ultimately be viewed as an asymmetric strategy. Lastly, its nuclear weapons program and ballistic missiles are to compensate for its outdated conventional weapons. Despite this outdate nature of its conventional weapons, Dr. Cho pointed out that the [North] Korean People’s Army ground force consists of a million active duty soldiers, as well as millions more in civilian reserve.

In the history of North Korea’s missile development and testing, Kim Jong-un has been actively launching missiles to a much greater extent than his father and grandfather. Dr. Cho gave a few numbers to illustrate North Korea’s missile fleet: it currently possesses more than 800 ballistic missiles, with 600 of these being Scud missiles.

However, North Korea’s missiles do face some limitations and challenges. First, North Korea has yet to completely master miniaturizing its nuclear warheads, where they would be small enough to fit on a missile. Second, they are still working on their reentry vehicle technology, where their missiles would be strong enough to withstand enormous temperature and structural pressures during its descent through the earth’s atmosphere to its target. Despite these limitations, Dr. Cho gave an estimate that North Korea would most likely be able to surpass these challenges within the next 2 years.

Given that 2018 is North Korea’s 70th anniversary of the founding of its regime, it is of concern that Kim Jong-un may launch missiles as a means of commemorating this date. For one thing, we can be optimistic that by sitting down at the negotiating table and opening dialogue, we have the potential to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons experiment and missile launches. On the more pessimistic and skeptical side regarding the North’s intentions, the international community can continue to strengthen sanctions, cooperate with one another, and identify countermeasures to the North’s program. Dr. Cho emphasized the need for the complete, irreversible, and verifiable denuclearization of the North and the importance of open dialogue and gathering around the negotiation table to establish perpetual peace on the Korean peninsula. To finish his remarks, he quoted Sun Tzu in The Art of War: “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”


Written by Bomie Lee

Charlotte Horlyck Lecture Summary

In her March 8 lecture, Charlotte Horlyck, Smithsonian Institution Senior Fellow of Art History at the Freer|Sackler, discussed “Charles Lang Freer and the Collecting of Korean Art in the Early 20th Century.” Through researching letters, collection catalogues, and purchase documents, she found that while Chosun-era pottery is most valuable today, collectors focused on Koryo celadon wares in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest developed quickly after Korea opened to the west in the 1880s, because missionaries and diplomats could obtain art as gifts or even from tombs and bring it home with them. Japanese collectors also sold Korean pottery, like New York’s Yamanaka and Co., and pieces circulated among the estates of prominent collectors. Korean culture was seen as traditional while Japan and China were changing and modernizing, but scholarship about Korean culture was scarce at the time. Charles Freer began collecting Korean pottery in the late 1880s because James McNeill Whistler, a favorite artist of his and designer of the Freer Gallery’s famous “Peacock Room,” was inspired by Asian art. Freer based his choices on aesthetics rather than history. He donated his collection to the U.S. government in 1906, and the Freer Gallery opened in 1926, becoming the first art museum on the Smithsonian campus.

March/April Blog Topic: The #MeToo Movement in South Korea

Topic: The #MeToo Movement in South Korea
Background: The #MeToo movement began as an online effort to expose sexual harassment and assault in the United States in response to allegations against film director Harvey Weinstein. The movement then spread from Hollywood to other sectors and to other nations. In South Korea, it took hold after a prosecutor spoke out about her experience of harassment and the resulting professional backlash. Artists Ko Un and Lee Youn-taek and presidential hopeful Ahn Hee-jung are among the most famous Koreans to be called out for sexual misconduct. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called for a wider #MeToo movement and urged authorities to investigate cases thoroughly.
Guiding Ideas:
– How does the #MeToo movement in South Korea compare to the movement in the United States or in other Asian countries?
– What are the strengths and weaknesses of the movements’ strategy and goals?
– What impact will the #MeToo movement have in South Korea?
– What cultural or policy changes would reduce sexual harassment and assault in South Korea? What are the obstacles to implementing these challenges?

Soh Jaipil Circle – Prof. Sergei Kurbanov: Compiling History of North Korea in the 21st Century: Methodology of Fact Selection and Analysis

Prof. Sergei Kurbanov gave an illuminating presentation on the topic of researching the national history of North Korea, a difficult task even for the most experienced scholars. Unlike many scholars who refer to North Korea as a communist state, Prof. Kurbanov offered his own unique concept of North Korea as a “nationalistic tradition-based forced/self-isolated Asian Korean country”. He went on to explain that, in compiling a history of North Korea, there are two main principles. The first is a national North Korean history compiled for the North Korean population; the second is “external” North Korean history written by foreigners, which explains North Korean history to foreign audiences.

Prof. Kurbanov notes that historians of the latter category often – whether intentionally or not – inject their own country’s worldviews in compiling the history of North Korea or any other country for that matter. One example of approaches to North Korean history narrative is the Soviet case of historians emphasizing the “development” of North Korea as the result of Soviet help. In contrast, the U.S. history of North Korea describes the nation as “dictatorship regime”. This means that the language that history is written in reflects the point of view of the native country. For example, histories written in Russian are bound to be influenced by Russia’s political relationship with North Korea as is the case of American. Thus, understanding the perception and worldview that is embedded within different languages is incredibly important. Prof. Kurbanov posed the question of whether it is possible to overcome these national and cultural perspectives and compile a scientific history of North Korea. He argued that theoretically this would be possible though practically very difficult.

Towards the end of his lecture, Prof. Kurbanov gave two principles of describing two ways of compiling history gijeonchae and pyeonnyeonchae. He concluded his lecture a brief overview of major events or nodal events that have taken place in North Korea post-1945. The compelling presentation highlighted important aspects of conducting research on the history of North Korea.

For more lectures on similar topics, please stay tuned for more Soh Jaipil Circle news!


Written by Soo-Jin Kweon

Political Economy of Reform in North Korea

Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia (PISA) and GW Institute for Korean Studies (GWIKS) co-hosted an event looking at economic reform in North Korea. Both PISA and GWIKS are standouts in the Washington policy community for their mission to expand public discourse on North Korea beyond the security archetype. On February 22, 2018, we gave the audience the opportunity to learn more about North Korean economic history, government-led reforms, domestic political drivers, and the role of outside actors in shaping North Korean economic landscape. Keynote speaker, Dr. Kevin Gray of University of Sussex, and currently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, delivered a presentation titled, the Political Economy of Reform in North Korea. Dr. Joongho Kim, a Visiting Scholar from GWIKS participated in program as a discussant. Each scholar offered insightful expertise into the topic and agreed that the pace of economic development and liberalization in North Korea is varied across the country. PISA and GWIKS will sponsor an event next month, ‘Beyond the Nuclear Issue’ a conference held at The Elliott School March 28th.

Youn Kuk Jung on “The South Korean Media in the Post-Truth Era”

In his presentation at the GW Institute for Korean Studies, journalist and former Blue House spokesman, Youn Kuk Jung discussed the impact of the post-truth era on South Korean media and government. “Post-truth” was the 2016 Oxford Dictionary word of the year, and it emphasizes the precedence of emotion and personal opinion over objective truth. Mr. Jung traced its origins to increasing suspicion towards news sources with the rise of alternative information sources online. Through the miniaturization and grouping processes in online discourse, people converse only with like-minded individuals and their opinions are never challenged. These insulated groups can become politically powerful, playing on the sentiments of members to create demagogy, or “political activity or practices that seek support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational argument.”

Mr. Jung argued that the media has an obligation to remain neutral in order to fight against such demagogy. However, when journalists’ priority is with attracting more readers, they fear of going against the prevailing public opinion and may also write news that have yet to be proven correct. This is especially potent in South Korea, where public sentiment is seen as above the rule of law. Other challenges of online communication in the post-truth era include the tendency to block-out different viewpoints and the proliferation of low quality discourse on the Internet and via text messaging. To combat these problems, he proposed that journalists hold themselves to high standards, seeking the hidden truth beneath the surface and patiently confirming facts before breaking stories. In addition, laws limiting reporting on ongoing investigations could help prevent media and public influence on judicial decisions. Mr. Jung raised serious concerns about efforts to stir up emotions for political gain and urged a combination of media and government efforts to present the truth and preserve the rule of law.


Written by Grace Wright

Film-Screening “Secret State of North Korea: Explore Life Under Kim Jong-Un”

GWIKS was proud to host a film screening of “Secret State of North Korea: Explore Life Under
Kim Jong-Un” and a Q&A panel with North Korean defector students from Hana Foundation’s Leadership
Program. The event took place on January 24 with a dinner reception of traditional Korean cuisine. Over
250 guests including students, faculty, and non-GWU affiliated guests attended the event, one of the
highest turnouts for a GWIKS event.
Director Jisoo M. Kim started the screening with warm opening remarks, thanking all audience
members and program participants for making the event possible. Afterwards, Shin Hyo Sook, the Head
of Department of Educational Development, gave an introductory talk about Hana Foundation and their
mission to aid North Korean refugees in South Korea.
The hour-long screening of Frontline’s “Secret State of North Korea” depicted the harsh living
conditions of many people in North Korea. Interviews of North Korean refugees revealed detailed
personal accounts of hunger and torture in North Korea. Some of them were shown working alongside
activist groups in South Korea in order to smuggle DVD’s and radios after moving to South Korea.
According to the activists and statistical reports, the influence of foreign media had a great influence
and popularity on North Korean citizens.
A Q&A followed the screening with Professor Gregg A. Brazinsky moderating the panel. The
audience members were asked to write down questions for the defector students who answered from a
selection with the assistance of an interpreter. Many audience members were curious about everyday
life in North Korea, one member asking how easy it was to travel within the country. Others asked their thoughts regarding reunification. The students answered to the best of their knowledge and offered valuable insight and thoughts on a variety of related issues.
The end of the Q&A was met with a round of applause from the audience and many thanks from
Hana Foundation and GWIKS. The popularity of the event speaks to the high level of interest in North
Korea-related topics and dedication to opening up more discourse on the issue of the division. We hope
to see everyone again at our upcoming events!


Written by Soo-jin Kweon

Sergei Kurbanov: “North Korea in Modernization: Economy, Politics, and Social Life”

















On January 26, 2018, the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures hosted the Kim-Renaud East Asian Humanities Lecture Series regarding modernization in North Korea, co-sponsored by the GW Institute for Korean Studies (GWIKS). The talk featured Professor Sergei O. Kurbanov from the St. Petersburg University, who is currently a visiting scholar at GWIKS. Professor Kurbanov offered a unique insight into North Korea that he lamented as gaining far too little attention in U.S. public perception.

Professor Kurbanov began the discussion by noting that we often live in the world of our own myths, and thus, it is imperative to deconstruct these myths so that we are able to make astute decisions grounded upon facts. While many observers focus on North Korea’s “modern” history of roughly 70 years, Prof. Kurbanov emphasized that the country’s history dates back to 5000 years ago, beginning with Ancient Joseon (Gojoseon). In the minds of North Koreans, there is much more to their way of life and their history than their leadership, given how their traditions, literature, language, art, and values stem back to thousands of years ago.

Prof. Kurbanov then discussed North Korea’s more recent history, starting from the 1940s, which he argued as being a relatively free society with freedom of speech, thinking, and assembly. Before the outbreak of the Korean War, the northern provinces featured numerous political parties and factions, intellectuals espousing various schools of thought, and private ownership of small and medium enterprises. Even after the War, there was a short period in which pluralism existed.

The 1990s was a period of forced isolation for North Korea, given the fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc. Thus, in the early 2000s and until 2011, North Korea sought to improve relations with South Korea, China, Russia, and the United States. In light of this historical background, Prof. Kurbanov argued that North Korea has always been more nationalistic than truly communist. Contrary to the dynasties of Korea’s long history, he asserted that it would be incorrect to label the Kim regime as dynastic, as each successive leader of the DPRK has occupied a political position different from the previous leader. Furthermore, given North Korea’s place in East Asia, where neighboring countries of South Korea, Japan, and China are making strides in economic, technological, and scientific innovation, he claimed that North Korea has similar ambitions.

Having established this background, Prof. Kurbanov proceeded to discuss his observation of scientific, technological, and cultural modernization in North Korea. Specifically within the context of the capital of Pyongyang, he noted the widespread use of cellphones (smartphones), computers, tablets, solar-powered batteries, banking cards, and taxis. Market mechanisms were very much active, with vendors selling goods, car owners paying for parking, and businessmen and women moving about. Prof. Kurbanov also observed the prevalence of children carrying drinking water around (which he noted was unseen when he was growing up in the USSR), soju (which had been introduced to North Korea through interactions with the South), religious institutions such as a Buddhist monastery and a Russian orthodox church (whatever their real objectives may be), and popular trends in fashion and style.

Perhaps what was most interesting among his many examples was the widespread popularity of American culture, with children avidly watching dubbed Disney animations and donning Mickey Mouse shirts. Thus, Prof. Kurbanov strongly emphasized that North Koreans do not see Americans as enemies, but rather as potential friends. Despite the rhetoric adopted by the North Korean leadership and the media, as well as the strong public sentiment against what has been framed as American imperialism, the average North Korean enjoys American popular culture and is curious to learn more.

Prof. Kurbanov shared various photos to elucidate his points and offered a unique look into the country based on his personal experience living and working there. He highlighted the importance of arriving at a common understanding of North Korea. In regards to tackling the politico-diplomatic and nuclear problem presented by the country, he offered three steps the U.S. could take toward resolution: (1) guarantee North Korea that the U.S. will not invade, (2) invite North Korea into the U.S. defense system, and (3) begin talks after these two proposals are put forth.

Written by Bomie Lee

SJP Third Talk: Jihwan Hwang

On December 1, 2017, Dr. Jihwan Hwang, visiting scholar at the Catholic University of America and lecturer at GW, presented on his research “Can North Korea Become America’s Friend” to a group of students, staff, and representatives from the Korea Economic Institute and the Department of State. Dr. Hwang compared the improvement of relations with Iran and Cuba under President Obama to the North Korean case. He proposed that the implementation of agreements, change in domestic politics, and level of nuclear development are initial conditions that determine whether a “rogue state” can become friends with the U.S. Until those factors change in North Korea, he remarked that friendship with the U.S. does not appear likely. During the question and answer session, Dr. Hwang and the participants discussed other possible factors such as leadership, geostrategic calculations, and economic considerations.


December 1: Soh Jaipil Circle with Jihwan Hwang

GWIKS Soh Jaipil Circle

The Third Talk

“Can North Korea Become America’s Friend?”

Featuring Dr. Jihwan Hwang



Friday, December 1, 2017

12:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Lunch Will Be Provided


Elliott School of International Affairs

Chung-Wen Shih Conference Room

Sigur Center for Asian Studies

1957 E Street, NW, Suite 503

Washington, DC 20052


Can North Korea become America’s friend? In recent years, North Korea has seemingly become an exceptional case compared to America’s other old enemies: Iran and Cuba. Although the Trump administration seeks to reverse the Obama administration’s policy, Iran and Cuba have gone through impressive internal and external changes, and have recently been approaching the international community. However, North Korea’s attitude towards the U.S. has become increasingly provocative rather than cooperative. Even with the Obama administration’s engagement diplomacy toward enemy nations, North Korea did not reciprocate. North Korea still continues its hostility and the U.S. has put several economic sanctions against Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile provocations. What differentiates North Korea from Iran and Cuba? This talk compares changes in Iran and Cuba’s domestic politics, economic situation, and security environment with those of North Korea in order to find out what makes North Korea’s course look so different.


With Jihwan Hwang

Jihwan HWANG is Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Seoul, Korea. He is now a year-long visiting scholar at the Catholic University of America. He is also teaching “Politics in the Two Koreas” at the George Washington University for this semester. He has served in several advisory positions in the Korean government, including the President’s Committee for Unification Preparation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Unification. His publications include “The Paradox of South Korea’s Unification Diplomacy” and “The Two Koreas after U.S. Unipolarity.” He is a graduate of Seoul National University and received his PhD in Political Science from the University of Colorado, Boulder.


Moderated by Gregg Brazinsky

Gregg A. BRAZINSKY is Associate Professor of History and International Affairs and Deputy Director of GW Institute for Korean Studies. His research seeks to understand the diverse and multi-faceted interactions among East Asian states and between Asia and the United States. He is the author of Nation Building in South Korea: Koreans, Americans, and the Making of a Democracy (University of North Carolina Press, 2007) and Winning the Third World: Sino-American Rivalry during the Cold War (University of North Carolina Press, 2017). He served as interim director of the GW Institute for Korean Studies during the Spring 2017 semester.

HMS 25 Videos


October 20, 2017

Opening Remarks by Dr. Jisoo Kim and Dr. Young-Key Kim-Renaud

Key-Sook Choe, Associate Professor in the Institute of Korean Studies at Yonsei University

Serk-Bae Suh, teaches Korean literature at the University of California, Irvine as Associate Professor

Sookja Cho, Assistant Professor of Korean at Arizona State University

Yumi Han, translator and lecturer in Korean at the University Paris-Sorbonne and the Korean Cultural Center in Paris

Janet Lee, Assistant Professor of Korean Literature at Keimyung University

Immanuel Kim, Assistant Professor in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies at Binghamton University

Q&A Pt.1

Q&A Pt.2


October Students’ Voices Blog Post

The GW Institute for Korean Studies wants to hear from you! Submit a blog post sharing your opinion about our monthly topic, and you will be featured on the Student Voices section of our website. This is a great way to make your voice heard, exchange ideas with other GW students, and add some published writing experience to your resume! Check out past Student Voices posts here.
September/October Topic: U.N. Sanctions on North Korea
Background: On Monday, September 11, the United Nations Security Council approved UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2375, which imposed stricter sanctions on textile exports and oil in response to North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, conducted on September 3. This came just one month after the August 5 vote to impose UNSCR 2371 sanctions in response to North Korea’s two July inter-continental ballistic missile tests. North Korea has been subject to UN sanctions since its first nuclear test in 2006. Many see UN action as the best way to address the North Korean nuclear program, but some experts say the U.S. should focus on implementing its own unilateral sanctions instead of working with China and Russia at the UN. Others argue that no form of sanctions will be effective. After North Korea’s September 15 missile test, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said, “We have pretty much exhausted all the things that we can do at the Security Council at this point.”
Guiding Questions:
– Have UN sanctions have had an effect on North Korea’s nuclear program?
– How successful will the most recent UN sanctions be? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this resolution?
– Should the U.S. continue to work on UN sanctions resolutions, or focus on unilateral sanctions?
– Are there other, more effective ways to address North Korea’s nuclear program?
– What are the key challenges to addressing North Korea’s nuclear program at the UN? What are possible solutions?
– How has UN action towards North Korea changed over time? Are these changes positive or negative?
– What next steps should the UN Security Council take regarding North Korea?
The questions above are only suggestions; please feel free to take your own creative approach to the topic!
Submission Instructions:
– Posts should be approximately 300-1,000 words.
 Email gwiks@gwu.edu and provide your @gwu.edu email address, and we will send instructions for posting to the blog
– Submissions will be accepted until Monday, October 30. 
Please contact gwiks@gwu.edu if you have any questions.
Happy writing!

February Students’ Voices Blog Topic

Topic: Pyeongchang Winter Olympics 

Background: On February 9, the 2018 Winter Olympics will begin in Pyeongchang, South Korea, exactly twenty years after Seoul’s 1988 Olympics. The Pyeongchang Olympics have drawn attention for security concerns over the North Korean nuclear and missile threat and the inter-Korean talks culminating in plans for the two Koreas to march under a unification flag and compete on a joint women’s ice hockey team.
Guiding Ideas:
– What are your thoughts on the unification flag and joint women’s ice hockey team? What is the significance of these events for inter-Korean relations?
– How do the 2018 and 1988 Olympics compare? How do they reflect South Korea’s role in the international system?
– What factors will contribute to a successful or unsuccessful Olympics for South Korea?
– What can sports diplomacy through the Olympics accomplish? What are its limitations?
The questions above are only suggestions; please feel free to take your own creative approach to the topic!

November 16: “Tales from the Motherland: Korea and the Power of Small”

Institute for Korean Studies & Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communications


“Tales from the Motherland: Korea and the Power of Small”

Robert Ogburn, Visiting State Department Public Diplomacy Fellow



Thursday, November 16, 2017

4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Elliott School of International Affairs

Lindner Family Commons Room

1957 E Street, NW, Suite 602

Washington, DC 20052


About Robert Ogburn
Robert Ogburn has held the title of Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul since September 2014. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1987 and has served in Iraq, Korea, Vietnam, Washington and Egypt. Prior to Seoul, Robert was Deputy Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City from 2011-2014. In 2009-2010, Robert was the State Department’s senior advisor for rule of law at the US Embassy in Baghdad, where he focused on inter-agency and provincial coordination of the Mission’s rule of law efforts. Robert has held five previous jobs in Korea, including Spokesman and Counselor for Public Affairs. In addition to serving in Iraq, he considers his career highlights to be re-opening the USG’s diplomatic post in Busan, Korea in 2007; running White House Press Filing Centers during Presidential visits to various countries; and, from 2001-5 bringing some of the first cultural and performing arts programs to southern Vietnam since the end of the War. In Seoul, he has been the chairman of one of the world’s largest binational Fulbright Commissions, and he also introduced the State Department’s first-ever FabLab Fellow and other innovative sports and cultural diplomacy programs. Robert has an MA in East Asian Studies from the George Washington University (’85) and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University (’04).

November 10: Korean Literature Essay Contest Award Ceremony

Thanks to our generous sponsor, LTI Korea, we are holding:

GWIKS 2017 Korean Literature Essay Contest Award Ceremony

Friday, November 10, 2017

1:30 pm – 3:00 pm

Elliott School of International Affairs

Chung-Wen Shih Conference Room

1957 E Street, NW, Suite 503

Washington, DC 20052




1st: Eric Kenney

2nd: Nancy Chung

3rd: Gloria Han & Ho Young Choe


Guest Speaker

Young-key Kim-Renaud will be giving a talk on The Vegetarian and the importance of Korean literature at the award ceremony. She is Professor Emeritus of Korean Language and Culture and International Affairs, previous chair of the East Asian Languages and Literatures Department at GW. She is also currently Senior Advisor to GW Institute for Korean Studies.


You-me Park is the program director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Georgetown university. She is presently completing a book-length study titled War on Women: Militarism, Gender, and Human Rights, which rethinks the connections among militaristic ideology, human rights discourse, and contemporary theories of biopolitics and sexual violence.

James Han Mattson currently teaches at the University of Maryland. A Michener-Copernicus Award recipient, he has worked as a staff writer and editor for Pagoda Foreign Language Institute, the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, and Logogog – South Africa.  His debut novel, The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves, will be published by Little A in December 2017.

About the Essay Contest

The GWIKS Korean Literature Essay Contest encourages students to engage with translated Korean novels and promotes a better understanding of Korean literature. This year, participants were asked to write an essay about author Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, which won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. With the sponsorship of LTI Korea, GWIKS successfully held the first Korean Literature Essay Contest, which will be held annually.


November 2: Lecture Series with Dr. Charles Kim

GWIKS Lecture Series:

Charles Kim

Associate Professor, History Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Cold War Culture in Postcolonial South Korea”

Thursday, November 2, 2017

4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Marvin Center Room 307

The George Washington University

800 21st St NW, Washington, DC 20052

Register now

Lecture Topic
Dr. Kim will speak about his recent book, Youth for Nation: Culture and Protest in Cold War South Korea. This in-depth exploration of culture, media, and protest follows South Korea’s transition from the Korean War to the political struggles and socioeconomic transformations of the Park Chung Hee era. Although the post-Korean War years are commonly remembered as a time of crisis and disarray, Charles Kim contends that South Koreans used the period to rework pre-1945 constructions of national identity to meet the needs of postcolonial nation-building. He explores how state ideologues and mainstream intellectuals elevated the nation’s youth as the core protagonist of a newly independent Korea, which set the stage for the the April Revolution in 1960. Student participants laid the groundwork for the culture of protest in the 1960s to 1980s democratization movement and conservative gender relations in the subsequent decades. Those interested in twentieth-century Korea, Cold War cultures, social movements, or democratization in East Asia will not want to miss this important lecture.
About Charles Kim
Charles Kim is the Korea Foundation Associate Professor of Korean Studies in the History Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Dr. Kim is a historian of modern Korea focusing on the culture and society of South Korea. His research and teaching interests include narratives, memory, media, gender, and Cold War culture and ideology. His recent book Youth for Nation: Culture and Protest in Cold War South Korea was published by University of Hawaii Press in 2017.

2017 GWIKS Summer Travel Grant Presentations

The 2017 GWIKS Summer Travel Grant Presentations began with Professor Jisoo Kim explaining the application process and the function of the grant to students wishing to receive funding for summer 2018. This past summer, four GW graduate students were awarded the travel grant, which supported their travels to Korea to conduct research for their thesis, capstone, or dissertation.

Kya Palomaki (M.A. Candidate, Security Policy) was the first panelist to share about the research she conducted with the help of the GWIKS grant. Kya spent her summer in Daejeon, where she participated in a 7-week fellowship hosted by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Education and Research Center (NEREC). Kya took courses on topics ranging from the trafficking of weapons to nuclear terrorism, and also traveled throughout Korea, China, and Japan to meet with leading experts. Kya was assigned to work on a project focusing on the Polish nuclear power program, and while this deviated from her desire to study ROK-US cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation, she nevertheless took away applicable lessons for the East Asian context. She examined the geopolitical ramifications of Poland’s nuclear program, while her Korean engineer partner analyzed the technical capabilities, and they were able to present their findings at a large conference towards the end of their program.

Soo-Jin Kweon (M.A. Candidate, English Literature) shared about her research on contemporary Korean queer historical dramas, which allowed her to examine how homo-eroticism and queer sexuality were understood throughout Korean history, and how contemporary Korean films adopt the Western conceptions of sexuality and identity. Soo-Jin attended the 17th Korea Queer Film Festival and interviewed Dr. Kim Kyung Tae, who wrote his PhD dissertation on homosexual relationships in contemporary Korean films. Additionally, she facilitated her research by examining sources at the Seoul National University Library and the Korean Film Archive. Soo-Jin focused on the film, “A Frozen Flower,” comparing historical records and the director’s interpretation and portrayal of King Gongmin of Goryeo Dynasty.

Huong Dang (PhD Candidate, Economics) detailed the research she conducted on South Korea’s industrial policy and economic development. She resided on and utilized resources available at Sogang University in Seoul, as well as audited courses on Korea’s economic development at the Korea Development Institute. Furthermore, Huong visited numerous think tanks and was able to engage with leading experts, allowing her to explore different schools of thought and to examine the application of Korea’s particular path and strategy for currently developing countries and, in particular, Vietnam.


Benjamin Young (PhD Candidate, Korean History) traveled to Korea to investigate North Korea’s ties to the Third World during the Cold War, which enabled North Korea to build prestige and garner support for Kim Il Sung’s role as a global revolutionary leader. Benjamin analyzed two case studies, with the first being North Korea’s ties to Iran, and the second being North Korea’s ties to the small Caribbean state of Grenada. He elaborated upon specific examples that demonstrated the overarching theme of his dissertation, such as the enrollment of both South and North Korean students (and the resulting tension) at Tehran Foreign School, or the efforts of North Korean diplomats to enhance the Grenadian socialist movement. He was able to examine these rarely studied cases, thanks to access to sources at South Korea’s National Assembly Library, ROK Foreign Ministry Archive, the University of North Korean Studies Library, and the National Institute of Korean History Archive.

This engaging series of presentations reflected the wide range of research topics, as related to Korea, that can be covered by the GWIKS Summer Travel Grant. All GW graduate students are eligible to apply for the GWIKS Summer Travel Grant, and details regarding the application for summer 2018 will be available on our website early next semester.

November 18 & 20: Korean Contemporary Dance Performance “GaNaDa Flow”

Korean Contemporary Dance Performance: “GaNaDa Flow”
Nov 18: Georgetown University Lohrfink Auditorium, 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
Nov 20: GWU Betts Theatre, 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
*Event is free of charge*

With performers coming all the way from Seoul, South Korea, The Nanuri Dance Company and MTM A Capella Group’s production of “GaNaDa Flow” is a Korean dance performance for high school and university students who are studying Korean language, history, and culture. It is the aim of the performers to convey the root meaning of Hangul, the Korean writing system, which eventually contributed to the making of a more balanced Korean society, equal in terms of communication and the media, via the art of the new concept of Korean dance combined with a-capella.
Registration for the performance is free, and it will take place on two different dates, November 18 and November 20, at the Georgetown Lohrfink Auditorium and the GWU Betts Theatre, respectively. Follow the links above to RSVP for tickets for either performance date.
This event is organized by the Korean Heritage Foundation. The KHF is committed to preserving and promoting Korean heritage and culture by organizing and supporting cultural activities.
This event is co-sponsored by the GW Institute for Korean Studies (GWIKS). GWIKS is part of the Elliott School for International Affairs at the George Washington University. The establishment of GWIKS in 2016 was made possible by a generous grant from the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS). To find out more about GWIKS, please click here!

October 6: United States – Korea Free Trade Agreement: A Policy Forum

Friday, October 6, 2017 from 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM (EDT)

Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2044
45 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20515

United States – Korea Free Trade Agreement:
A Policy Forum
South Korea — the world’s 12th largest economy — is an economic powerhouse 20 percent the size of California. Its economy ranks just below that of Russia, but it is smaller in size than Japan. Revitalized after the war, South Korea has become increasingly democratic and is a major pillar of U.S. defense strategy in the far east.

The United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) secured the framework of U.S.-Korea trade and investment.  For the U.S. services sector, KORUS is the “gold standard” among U.S. trade agreements, and as such it may serve as the basis for future agreements.  Nonetheless, there are others who hold that KORUS disadvantages the United States and who do not support its renegotiation.

This policy forum, organized by J. Robert Vastine, Senior Industry Fellow, Center for Business and Public Policy, will explore the pros and cons of KORUS.

Wendy Cutler, Vice President and Managing Director, Asia Society Policy Institute will offer introductory framing remarks, followed by a panel discussion moderated by J. Bradford Jensen, Senior Policy Scholar, Center for Business and Public Policy, and McCrane/Shaker Chair in International Business, Georgetown University McDonough School of Business. Panelists include:

  • Wendy Cutler, Vice President and Managing Director, Asia Society Policy Institute
  • David J. Salmonsen, Senior Director of Congressional Relations, American Farm Bureau Federation
  • Brad Smith, Chief International Officer, American Council of Life Insurers
Additional panelists to follow.

 Lunch will be provided.

Register here.


This seminar is part of the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy’s Georgetown on the Hill series at which we convene policymakers, academics, and industry experts to discuss important economic policy issues of the day.

September 22, 2017: Summer Study Abroad Program Panel

GWIKS Summer Study Abroad Program Panel

Join the GW Institute for Korean Studies for an informational session about the GWIKS Summer Study Abroad Program, and hear from the previous year’s participants as they present about their experiences, followed by the chance to mingle and get to know some exchange students from South Korea.

September 22Friday
2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Light refreshments will be provided after the panel.
The Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E st. NW, Room 505
Washington DC, 20052

Words from a North Korea Defector: Sung Ho Ji, President of NAUH

March 3rd, Friday: Korean International Studies Organization (KISO) on North Korean Human Rights
Time: 15:00 to 16:30
Location: Elliott School of International Affairs B12.
Now Action & Unity for Human rights (NAUH) is an NGO, found in April, 2010, that works hand-in-hand with youths from South Korea, North Korea, and overseas with the aim of improving the human rights conditions in North Korea and further working to achieve unification in the Korean Peninsula.
President of NAUH, Sung Ho Ji, is a North Korean defector and he will give a short lecture on the miseries in North Korea and the role of the current generation, the young adults of the present days, for the improvement of the human rights conditions in North Korea.

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