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∙ Current position: Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher, Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki
∙ Ph.D. dissertation Neighborhood Shopkeepers in Contemporary South Korea: Household, Work, and Locality available online (E-Thesis publications a the University of Helsinki). For printed copies, please contact me by e-mail.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Parliamentarians, Korean Studies, Gwanak, ppaek

The ROK national assembly is now on vacation, and many of the committees are making benchmarking tours abroad. As Finland is often seen as a kind of a model nation in Korea, parlamentarian visitors drop by here quite often - can't tell if the frequency is disproportionate, though. I understand that the Committee of Welfare (Pogôn pokchi wiwônhoe) came here earlier this month; at the moment a delegation from the Education Committee is here, but only for two days, so they shouldn't be hearing talk about parliamentary tourism back home. Such is the state of Korean Studies in Finland that when a representative of the discipline who doesn't need an interpreter is needed, a Ph.D. candidate in Cultural Anthropology is contacted. One member of the delegation, representative Yoo Ki-hong of Our Open Party (he represents Gwanak-gu!) is gathering info about Korean Studies, about the effects of the Korean government support and so on, so I was contacted.

It was a nice conversation, relaxed and informal - the first thing I did when entering the restaurant where Yoo and some other members of the delegation already were was to take off my tie; in their casual evening attire one couldn't have told them apart from Korean tourists. Once again I came to think about my double role; being a sort of a representative of "Korean Studies" as an anthropologist. This has also got to do with the state of teaching and resources here at the U. of Helsinki; even though some do their MA theses on Korea when majoring in East Asian Studies, I always maintain that there's actually no Korean Studies in the sense it's known elsewhere. One language teaching position does not yet make a university subject (as good job as is being done in language instruction).

Another thing which was a bit troubling was that there's the idea of Korean Studies scholars somehow representing Korea behind representative Yoo's interest and elsewhere as well. There a deep sense that the diminutive amount of ROK government support for Korean Studies abroad compared to Japanese support of Japanese studies is detrimental for Korean interests. A scholar taking government funds (not only from ROK) established with the intention to advance the nation's interests easily may find herself thinking whether the scholarly neutrality is endangered. Yes, I've taken ROK government funds, and I'm claiming honesty when I say that my research wouldn't have turned any different had I done it on non-Korean money. But my stuff isn't so much of burning national interest concerning ROK's international position...

Back to the street level. It was nice to learn that Rep. Yoo represents the first of my two Korean homeplaces (Gwanak in Seoul); this kind of connection is what soothes relations especially in Korea. Now should I count him as my ppaek? On the other hand, as far as I know most of my shopkeeper acquaintances in the area are Hannara (Grand National Party) voters...
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Comments to note "Parliamentarians, Korean Studies, Gwanak, ppaek" (Comments to posts older than 14 days are moderated)

<Blogger Sewing> said on 24.5.05 : 

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

<Blogger Sewing> said on 24.5.05 : 

Hi, Antti 훈장님:

This is unrelated to your post, but you may want to update the McCune-Reischauer links on your Note on Romanization page.

The McCune-Reischauer.org Web site is no longer online, so I've updated my own blog to link to the most recent copy of the site from the Internet Archive, here.

<Blogger Sewing> said on 24.5.05 : 

...For ease of reference, the URL is:

<Blogger Antti Leppänen> said on 25.5.05 : 

Thanks for the tip.
I've updated the link.

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