EAS Student Symposium

Thomas Thornton presented a talk entitled “Listening to Jesus ‘After Korea’: Scripture, Ethics, and the Transient Near Futures of Pentecostals in Seoul” based on his research on transient lay populations within a Pentecostal English ministry (EM) in Seoul, South Korea. By studying the ethnography at Yoido mega church, in particular the Bible study sessions conducted in English, he examined the possibility of establishing a sense of community among such transient populations in Seoul. He focused specifically on how the Pentecostal ministry’s teaching constructs a unique set of experiences based within the distinctive characteristics of ‘Korean’ Pentecostalism, as well as the way this then relates back to the larger context of a global lay mobility. Thornton’s presentation was followed by a feedback question-and-answer session, led by discussant Hayang “Yumi” Kim, an assistant professor in the Department of History. One issue addressed was the matter of Thornton himself also being a member of the larger transient population, and thus the role that his own identity played in shaping the outcomes of his research. Furthermore, there was the question of whether it would be possible to maintain an objective view throughout such research studies. The discussant suggested applying a comparative approach of several transient populations among different countries to help overcome such issues.
Danny Jeon presented a talk entitled “Japan and South Korea: Comfort Women Agreement, Status Quo” based on his research and findings from the Japan-American Student Conference (JASC) held in August 2015. The conclusion of the 67th annual JASC found that the nature of Japan’s collective self-defense system is inevitable due to the turbulent security environment of East Asia, and that there is an increasing need for Japan to gain legitimacy with measures to address the mounting historical tensions with its neighboring countries. As a result, two solutions to these issues arose in 2015. On September 18th 2015, the Japanese Upper House of Diet passed the rather controversial reinterpretation of Article 9 pertaining to collective self-defense, and on December 28th 2015, Japan and South Korea solidified an agreement on the comfort women issue. The Comfort Women Agreement was reached at a joint press conference in Seoul between Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se of South Korea, and was followed by a 15-minute call between President Park and Prime Minister Abe to confirm and respect the Agreement. The agreement stipulated that the comfort women issue be “resolved finally and irreversibly with this announcement,” as Prime Minister Abe expressed anew his “most sincere apologies and remorse” to victims and established a foundation funded by the “Government of Japan as a one-time contribution through its budget, and that projects for recovering the honor and dignity…of all former comfort women”. Although many sources cited this agreement as a landmark decision and point of cooperation between the two nations, Jeon argued that upon careful analysis into the actual agreement, the comfort women issue itself was not solved at all, and this agreement rather served more of a diplomatic purpose above all else.
Particularly due to vague wording and intentional loopholes for withdrawal within the agreement, it did not address any of the core ethical and legal implications at the crux of the issue. Furthermore, Jeon argued that the apology fell within the trope of Japan’s predictable apology-withdrawal policy, and the recurring problem of a sincerity of apology still remained.
Xiao Yu presented a talk entitled, “China’s Rural-Urban Migration and Gender Stratification in Compulsory Education” based on her research on the rural-urban inequality and educational disadvantages for girls. She specifically studies how the rural to urban migration affects the performance of children. She separates her study into four groups-urban children, rural children, rural children who migrated to urban areas, and rural kids whose parents are working in urban areas. A comparison of these four cases was also made between genders to determine a difference in their cognitive performances. Her research showed that overall, the education between urban and rural areas were unequal. Girls who migrated to the city performed a lot better than girls left behind in rural areas. Surprisingly, this trend did not show in the boys who migrated to the city. Their performance was lower than boys who lived in rural areas. Yu concluded that urban migration does not translate to more education opportunities for children. When money is sent back home, it does not translate in increasing sources for education.
Increasing living standards do not mean increasing education standards. The main problem is that the education system is very centralized. Another potential problem is gender perceptions in rural areas. Education is emphasized for boys, while girls are expected to do manual labor. Yu’s presentation was followed by a feedback question-and-answer session, led by discussant HueiYing Kuo, a senior lecturer and assistant research scientist in the Department of Sociology. A question about the validity of her research was raised. Her study may be flawed because it does not count for the students that dropped out of school, especially in rural areas. Aside from government institutions, cultural institutions may also play an integral role.

This report was written by undergraduates Sherry Kim and Bianca Tu, members of the EAS SAC Speakers Committee. The content of this report is based on the lectures presented during the East Asian Studies Student Symposium, held on April 14th 2016. Speakers included Thomas Thornton, PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology, Danny Jeon, undergraduate student in International Studies and East Asian Studies, and Xiao Yu, PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology.