March 19, 2018

The Structure of Protest Cycles: Contagion and Cohesion in South Korea’s Democracy Movement

The Structure of Protest Cycles: Contagion and Cohesion in South Korea’s Democracy Movement

Paul Y. Chang is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Harvard University and has written six papers on protest dialetics and social movements and his current project explores His current project explores the emergence of non-traditional family structures in South Korea, including single-parent households, single-person households, and multicultural families. Professor Chang recently visited the University of Pennsylvania to speak about his research on the structure of protest cycles, using social movements specifically in South Korea as his primary evidence to support the methodological reasoning.

Professor Chang introduced the topic of protest cycle structures by giving a brief overview of traditional methods to study social movement cycles given previously by sociologists like Sidney Tarrow and Maria Cousis. Tarrow’s view on the rise of movements is the most prevalent view held by sociologists today and is summarized in his own words: “Social movements rise when shifting political conditions open opportunities for disruption and the activities of social movements in turn can alter political policies and structures." Essentially the idea is that for social movements to succeed, there must be a change in the political environment that facilitates disruption. Maria Cousis partnered with Mario Diani to research event history and to create history models using aggregate count modeling strategies according to number of protests in a region. Paul Chang essentially aims to combine these prevailing theories and to find an intersection between political opportunism and protest count strategies to identify when and why there are cycles of social movements.

Professor Chang began his talk by describing what he calls “movement diffusion,” or the idea that actions affect other actions. It is in this methodology that his finds an issue with Cousis and Diani’s findings – if one only uses aggregate counts, one is discounting the idea that one event affects another. With the assumption of movement diffusion in mind, Chang focuses his first piece of research on the dynamics of protest diffusion, movement organizations, social networks and news media in 20 th century South Korea. Essentially, he tries to find operational links between two unique protest events in which participants in the latter specifically mention the prior event in reference to solidarity, inspiration, support statements, etc. When looking at the structure of protest cycles from 1970 to 1979, one can see aggregate counts of individual events and the paper’s purpose is to identify the connections between events, and specifically how to identify why some protests are more influential than others. When looking at the aggregate number of protests resulting from Park Chunghee’s run in 1971 for his third term, Chang found two different measures of centrality when looking at maps of nodes (a single protest event). The first was “Degree Centrality”: centrality based on the sum total of direct connections to another protest. The second measure of centrality was “Betweenness Centrality,” or an ability for events to bridge events that are indirectly connected.

These measures of centrality are his key findings through his research on protest cycles. What he found was that systemic issues have higher Betweenness scores than local issues while political targets score particularly high on Betweenness scores as well. During this time, Chang also studied how independent variables like use of repression or particular leadership may affect protests. Repression was found to be the most important degree and Betweenness variable while organizational involvement and leadership mattered the most for both Betweenness and Degree centrality measures. The theoretical implications of the varying degrees of centrality between protest variables are clear: protest events that raise issues that are generalizeable resonate with more diverse communities while repression might lower the number of protests but increase the level of influence protests might exhibit. By mapping out every single event and tracking various variables and identifications of each protest, Chang highlighted the important links between influential events according to their levels of centrality. Through this map, he found that cycles of social movements need both levels of centrality to inspire future events.

In conclusion, Professor Chang did not say that his findings could be immediately applied to protests across the world, he did note that there needs to be a connection between Tarrow’s original philosophy on movement opportunism and Diani and Cousis’s strategy of counting modeling. Chang’s solution to this problem, specifically in South Korea, was to identify independent variables relating to single protest events and measuring levels of centrality based on the position of a protest node in relations to other protest nodes. By mapping each protest, he found cycles of social movements can be attributed to the two degrees of centrality, Betweenness and Degree centrally. It will be interesting to see how Professor Chang can further his research beyond his current scope of the years after Park Chunghee’s third election process. Overall, Professor Chang’s research is a step forward in understanding the structure of social movement cycles not just in South Korea, but in any context. We thank Professor Chang for coming in from Harvard to speak with us at Penn and to provide us some insight into his important research.

March 1, 2018

James Joo-Jin Kim Program Open House

The James Joo-Jin Kim Program in Korean Studies held an open house on February 15 to celebrate the New Year and speak to the greater Penn community about available fellowship opportunities. The office was packed full of professors, graduate students, current fellows, and undergraduates who came together to celebrate the holiday, better known as seollal. The department provided tables full of drinks and food like bibimbap and rice cakes to liven up the event which ensured no one left hungry! It was evident by the full house in attendance that each year members of the more and more members of the Penn community are becoming invested in this field.

It was great to see the current fellows engaging with prospective applicants for the 2018-2019 Fellowship and promoting the opportunity to students who demonstrate active participation in the field of Korean Studies. As the spring semester gets underway, it is clear that the fellows have benefitted so much from the knowledge given to us by our Korean Studies professors like the Kim Program Director, Professor Eugene Park, as well as our peer fellows. Conversations were not just limited to academic opportunities however. Between the historic handshake between President Moon Jai-in and Kim Yo Jong at the Winter Olympics held in Pyeongchang, the rising importance of South Korean exports in this age of globalization, and Hyeon Chung’s impressive run at the Australian Open, it is easy to see why South Korea has an increasingly large role on the world stage. Overall, the department’s choice to celebrate in true Korean fashion with large amounts of authentic food and a big crowd coming together to also promote the field of Korean Studies was a success.

We thank everyone who was able to attend the New Year celebration. Please keep an eye out for upcoming events like the Penn Forum in Korean Studies presentation of “Politics, Public, and Shamans: Marginalization of Shamanism in Korea, Past and Present” on February 22. In addition, the deadline for the 2018-2019 James Joo-Jin Kim Program Undergraduate Fellowship is February 28.

March 1, 2018

Sovereignty: Building Block or Stumbling Block in Resolving Northeast Asian Security Disputes? – Thoughts from Alley McFarland

The second panel on International Law and Relations included John Feffer of the Institute for Policy Studies, who discussed how the concept of sovereignty connects to current security issues in Northeast Asia. Feffer presented an interesting view the role of sovereignty in these disputes, looking at how increased nationalism by the US, China, and Japan has exacerbated tensions related to North Korean nuclear power. Feffer in particular looked at recent changes in the US concept of sovereignty. While the US position on sovereignty has typically aligned with that of China, Feffer argued that President Trump’s “America First” philosophy and discussion of sovereignty pushes US policy closer to that of North Korea, at least rhetorically. President Trump has neglected previous US focus on multilateralism, creating a vision of the world that stresses the internationally recognized borders of a country and its right to govern without interference. Feffer stated that this more closely reflects the North Korean view of the world, but that these similar perspectives do not help resolve the current nuclear dilemma in Northeast Asia.

When looking at the issue of nuclear power in Northeast Asia, Feffer stressed the fact that the current status quo establishes a double standard, where some powers are allowed to have nuclear weapons while others are not. This double standard creates tensions in Northeast Asia where North Korea argues it has a sovereign right to have a nuclear weapons program in order to defend itself. Feffer noted that North Korean rhetoric on sovereignty is way to veil its desire to use nuclear weapons to alter the balance of power on the Korean peninsula and to bargain for international legitimacy. While this is an important point he made, it would be beneficial to further discuss the use of sovereignty as a rhetorical tool to assert national goals or interests. At times his discussion of sovereignty seemed separate from other regional interests in nuclear weapons. For example, his discussion on South Korea’s consideration of developing its own nuclear program seemed to stem more from anxiety over US military and economic commitment than issues of sovereignty. Consequently, it would be helpful for the coherency of his argument to further connect other national concerns with the concept of sovereignty.

Ultimately, Feffer asserted that this double standard creates an unstable status quo with North Korea remaining as an unofficial nuclear power. The volatility of the status quo grows with the assertions of sovereignty by regional players. Consequently, Feffer proposed three non-military alternatives to the status quo. In the first scenario he described a “normalization” of the sovereignty of North Korea, South Korea and Japan so that these three countries could directly negotiate a deal to bring North Korea into the international community while curbing its nuclear program. However, this is unlikely to occur in the near future given concerns over Japanese rearmament in the Korean peninsula and South Korean anxiety over US removal. A second scenario includes what Feffer called a “smudging of sovereignty” that would involve the US scaling back its right to conduct military exercises in the region and North Korea limiting its sovereign right to test nuclear weapons. Feffer stated that the US has rejected this deal, but argued that President Trump could adopt this tactic if he could present the compromise as his own. However, it is also important to note that in order for Americans to accept this compromise there would need to be a de-escalation of rhetoric on the North Korean threat. Finally, he suggested that regional powers could circumvent the nuclear issue by focusing on multilateral cooperation in other areas such as on the environment. This engagement could then spill over to other issues such as security. While this is an interesting and appealing proposition, Feffer’s argument would benefit from further explanation on how cooperation in environmental policy would create what he referred to as a “virtuous circle of engagement.”

December 5, 2016

Divided Families Panel — by Elaine Lee

On Monday, November 21, Penn for Liberty in North Korea, Penn Korean Student Association, the Asian Law and Politics Society, and a non-governmental organization called Divided Families USA partnered to host an informational workshop on North Korean refugees: “Faces of the Divided Korea.” Numerous guest speakers formed a panel to engage in a discussion: Michael Lammbrau, founder of the Arirang Institute, Benjamin Silberstein, PhD candidate at Penn, and Daniel Lee, Korean Affairs Fellow of New York Representative Charles Rangel. The event began with a screening of a documentary on reunification of Korean families divided by the Korean War.

The documentary screening set the stage for discussion with the panelists, depicting heartbreaking separation of families and the difficulty of coordinating such reunifications due to absence of diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea. Recordings of live interviews with reunited family members humanized the tragedy of family separation, showing the many difficulties not just in coordinating such reunifications and obtaining the funding for travel, but also in identifying actual family members and confirming that the right people were being set up to meet. The documentary also stressed the pressures of time in reunifying as many family members as possible, because many of those who were separated from their loved ones have significantly aged since the Korean War, which ended in 1953. Most importantly, the documentary revealed that there has been significant activism within the United States among Korean Americans, who care deeply about reunification of Korean families, have been working hard to secure funding for travel, and lobby their governments to pass a bill that would stress the humanitarian significance of working toward reuniting divided families.

The remainder of the event focused on raising awareness about H.Con.Res.40, a bill pushed forth by Divided Families USA. Daniel Lee moderated the discussion, as he is currently working in Washington, D.C. to supervise passage of the bill. Lee stressed the bipartisan and humanitarian aspects of the bill in the hopes that lack of contentiousness should ease the passing of the resolution and expedite reunification efforts, especially since the number of Korean Americans who have yet to reunite with their families in North Korea are declining rapidly. While questions from the audience raised concerns about actual enactment and engagement with North Korea, Lee emphasized the immediate need to first pass the bill through the House before any further steps.

Placing this issue of Korean family reunification in an international context, the speakers noted that humanitarian reunions of this sort can have implications for other refugee issues that the United States will need to address in future foreign policy. Not just a Korea issue, reunion of families remains a basic universal right, recognized by the United Nations. The most effective ways to address this moving forward are increased advocacy and awareness of both humanitarian issues in North Korea and the lack of support for reuniting Korean families, and mobilizing Korean-American interest to lobby Congress. Additionally, Lee stated that another next step would be to secure moderators for future reunions.