I specialize in authoritarianism, democratization, and social movements in Korea and East Asia. My research on authoritarian regime support, South Korean democracy movement, and electoral accountability in post-transition South Korea are published in Electoral Studies, Journal of East Asian Studies, Studies in Comparative International Development, and the Routledge Handbook of Korean Culture and Society. My other writings have appeared in the Pacific Affairs and The Conversation.
I am currently working on a book manuscript tentatively entitled, Dictator’s Modernity Dilemma: Development and Democracy in South Korea, 1961-1987. The book aims to reconcile the two seemingly contradictory views regarding South Korea’s path to modernity and democracy. At first blush, South Korea illustrates the basic premise of modernization theory: economic development leads to democracy. However, under the authoritarian tenures of Park Chung Hee (1961-1979) and Chun Doo Hwan (1980-1988), Korea’s political system became increasingly authoritarian alongside the growth of the national economy. Dictator’s Modernity Dilemma argues and demonstrates that the structural foundations of modernization had a stabilizing effect on authoritarian rule initially by increasing regime support, but these same modernization structures also laid the socioeconomic foundations for the emergence of a successful democracy movement. The book introduces two socioeconomic structures developed during Korea’s modernization drive that helped bolster the authoritarian regimes of Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan: industrial complexes and tertiary education. The book demonstrates how these same structures facilitated anti-regime protests in the 1970s and 1980s by various social movement groups, including, most importantly, workers and students. By highlighting the differential impacts of modernization structures over time, Dictator’s Modernity Dilemma shows how socioeconomic development acted as a “double-edged sword” by stabilizing the regimes at first, but destabilizing the dictatorship over time.
I am an Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies and an Assistant Professor, by courtesy, of Government at Wesleyan University. I am also an Associate-in-Research of the Council of East Asian Studies at Yale University, Executive Secretary of the Association of Korean Political Studies, and a 2018-2019 U.S.-Korea NextGen Scholar.
I received my Ph.D and A.M. degrees in Political Science from the Department of Government at Harvard University in 2016 and 2011 and B.A. (cum laude with honors) in Political Science from the University of Rochester in 2008. I previously held visiting fellow positions at the Asiatic Research Institute at Korea University, Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, and the Center for International Studies at Seoul National University.