GEAS Summer School 2014 @ SNUAC, Korea

Aug 16, 2014 - Aug 22, 2014
GEAS Summer School 2014 @ Korea

GEAS Summer School 2014 @ Korea
Image Credit: Hakjae Kim

GEAS Summer School 2014 @ Korea

GEAS Summer School 2014 @ Korea
Image Credit: Gregory Jackson

GEAS Summer School 2014 @ Korea

GEAS Summer School 2014 @ Korea
Image Credit: GEAS

GEAS Summer School 2014 @ Korea

GEAS Summer School 2014 @ Korea
Image Credit: Katrin Gengenbach

GEAS Summer School 2014 @ Korea

GEAS Summer School 2014 @ Korea
Image Credit: GEAS

The Graduate School of East Asian Studies (GEAS) held the first Summer School from 16th to 23th August, 2014 at Seoul National University Asia Center (SNUAC) in Seoul, Korea. The theme of this year's summer school was: "Institutional Dynamics of Division and Reunification: Korean Experiences"

The Graduate School of East Asian Studies (GEAS) held the first Summer School from 16th to 23th August, 2014 at Seoul National University Asia Center (SNUAC) in Seoul, Korea. The theme of this year's summer school was: "Institutional Dynamics of Division and Reunification: Korean Experiences"

The summer school aimed to bring different dimensions of the issues surrounding the Korean division together by focusing on the role of institutions and the challenges related to 'institutionalized division'. On the one hand, divided Koreas show how such a fundamental conflict can restrict harmonious political, socio-economic or even cultural development of societies. On the other hand, institutionalized division draws attention to alternative institutional solutions for that: the institutional frame of federalism, a regional organization, fair representative institutions, mutual agreements, common identity and civic nationalism that transcends exclusive national identities.

The summer school consisted of various academic programs. After arriving at the Incheon airport, GEAS had an excursion to Andong City, located in Kyungsang-bukdo Province (August 16–17), for understanding Korean traditional academic institutions and culture. The GEAS members visited the traditional Confucian Academy of Dosanseowon (陶山書院), and were also invited to visit the private preserved library of woodblock printing in the House of Korean Culture (國學文化會館). The summer school team enjoyed a stay at a traditional house in Andong Hahoe Village, one of the oldest preserved houses in the Confucian tradition. On the way to Seoul, the GEAS team also visited Mooryang-sujeon buddhist temple (浮石寺 無量壽殿) for a short sightseeing trip, where people can enjoy a beautiful scenery and Buddhist culture.

The main academic program started from Monday, August 18 at the venue at SNUAC. After warm welcome address from director Dr. Myung-koo Kang, every participant, including GEAS faculty, PhD students, and Korean graduate students, had an introduction time and had formed working groups. Each of three working groups were designed to discuss their core agenda, such as 1) division and international institutions and norms, 2) division and reunification in Korean politics, and finally, 3) division and cultural/informal institutions accordingly.

Five Sessions were allocated according to following five topics; (Trans)national Flows in East Asian Culture, Institutional Developments of Korean Civil Society, North Korean Refugees, Economic Exchange between South-North Korea, Inter-state and East Asian Regional Institutions.

The first session was devoted to the discussion about transnational culture and collective memory in East Asia. Professor Myung-koo Kang explained how South Korean popular culture has been consumed by Asian audiences, especially based on his recent case study on Chinese audiences. Professor Keun-Sik Jung comprehensively explained the historical background of history disputes among East Asian countries, tracing their historical origin back to the ‘Sino–Japanese War (1894)’, which is connected to the formation and evolution of ‘East Asian Division System 分斷體制.

On the second day, the second and the third session dealt with domestic politics and North Korean refugee issues each. Two speakers described how South Korean civil society has been developed or been restricted in terms of human rights and civil rights movement. Professor Hyo-Je Cho clearly showed how the institutionalized division of Korea has set considerable structural limits to the development of human rights, by imposing the staunch anticommunist ideology at the center of nation's political principle. Professor Jin-Wook Shin gave a more detailed picture of the development of civil society. He explained how Korean democracy has been transformed from formal democratization to the rise of new-rights group. He also described internal conflicts among civil society, and what he called ‘re-authorization process.’

In the third session, issues related to North Korean refugees were discussed, as they are often considered as a litmus test which shows what will happen to North Korean people after the Reunification. Professor Byung Ro Kim provided an informative presentation, based on a recent survey on 250 refugees. According to the study, the desire for reunification differed widely between North and South Koreans, and between different generations. Professor Shi-Eun Yu also conducted her study focusing on the ‘Identity and Lives of North Korean Escapees’. Based on her current in-depth interview research on 15 North Korean escapees, she showed their national identities could be categorized into four different types.

 

Having successfully finished the second day main program, GEAS had an opportunity to visit a research think tank, the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, which is a leading private think tank, engaging into specific research for Reunification policy-making process. This visit could also contribute to allowing communication and starting networks among young researchers working at both Asan Institute and GEAS.

 

The third day’s topics were Economic Exchanges between the Two Koreas, and International Relations in the East Asian Region. Dr. Duk-Ryong Yun showed a general trends and changes in North-South Korean economic exchanges by analyzing RCA (Revealed comparative advantage) index. He showed that major changes of the economic situation inside North Korea are happening in particular in terms of market economy and material exchanges. The core focus of interests among the experts on North Korean economy was overcoming the so-called ‘Poverty Trap’.

 

During the session on the Inter-State and East Asian Regional Institutions, Professor Young-Hae Han provided in-depth analysis on the self-perception of the Japanese nationalism to highlight the domestic socio-political background of conservative politics. Professor Tae-Kyun Park explained the historical meaning of the Korean war armistice system (1953. 7. 27), by examining different influences from U.S. and from China.

The highlight of the summer school program was the visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and Panmunjom area, in which armistice negotiation took place. On the fourth day of the Summer School (August 21), the GEAS team could experience realities, tensions of division owing to Division, which left ‘the most long-lasting impressions of the summer school’, according to one evaluation from participants.

On the final day, August 22, each of the three working groups which had formed on the first day of school presented the results of their discussions, revealing how much they could learn from the program and peer group discussions. According to the evaluation from Jihye, a graduate student from Korea and now PhD candidate at GEAS, she was “impressed by the well-organized program and the rich discussion after every session” and she was sure that “this will be a turning point of my academic career.” Ki-Hyun, another Korean participant commented he was especially able to get “new perspectives on the issues that”, he believed, “only East Asian people can share.” There were many suggestion from GEAS members after the summer school to develop this program to cover more diverse topics, to re-arrange the overall schedule, to enhance efficiency of group discussion, to include more divergent academic angles, which can provide constructive knowledge for the next program. All in all, our GEAS team had lots of fun, and both candidates and faculty were more than able to deepen their understanding on this unique issue of Korean society through the first Summer School.

Dr. Hakjae Kim, GEAS

Time & Location

Aug 16, 2014 - Aug 22, 2014

Seoul National University Asia Center (SNUAC), South Korea