All FSI News News June 22, 2021

Tenth Annual Korean Studies Writing Prize Awarded

Haley Gordon (MA '21, East Asian Studies) was awarded the 10th annual Korea Program Prize for Writing in Korean Studies, for her paper "Nation-Being in North Korea: New Perspectives on Human Rights."
Haley Gordon awarded the tenth annual Korean Studies Writing Prize

"Haley's thesis is a critical analysis of the human rights discourse on North Korea. She notes that the human rights abuses are indisputable; but she finds a degree of tone-deafness around human rights activism that she traces to an absence of definition of terms," says Dafna Zur, Associate Professor, Korean Literature and Culture and Director of the Center for East Asian Studies. “Her inquiry led to two threads of analysis: the first is a deconstruction of some of the assumptions made by human rights' actors (and her exposure of their sometimes contradictory approaches); and the second is her reading of North Korean fiction as a way of understanding the relationship between the individual and the state. Haley's thesis brings a fresh perspective on what is typically a highly charged topic, and leaves room for possible policy adjustments.”

In Gordon's own words: "My thesis explores the contentious conversation surrounding North Korean human rights. If there is widespread agreement that North Korea’s human rights situation is appalling, then why is there still such heated disagreement over how best to improve it? What exactly are we talking about when we say ‘human rights’ in the context of North Korea? By way of answering these questions, I argue that the various governments, NGOs, activists, and international bodies that have a stake in the human rights conversation prioritize different historical goals and motives—denuclearization, reunification of the Korean Peninsula, regime change, etc.— that then shape their approaches to human rights.”

“I argue that it is also important to examine how human rights are conceived of within North Korea, in order to better understand—although not condone—the country’s ongoing abuses.” Gordon comments, “In the absence of an open and honest rights dialogue within the DPRK, I analyze state-sanctioned works of fiction, looking at how human rights, as manifested in the relationship between the state and individual, are presented to the North Korean populace. These stories illuminate a concept of human rights that prioritizes the right to survival of the North Korean nation itself; one that is very much at odds with the goals of other stakeholders."

Sponsored by the Korea Program and the Center for East Asian Studies, the writing prize recognizes and rewards outstanding examples of writing by Stanford students in an essay, term paper or thesis produced during the current academic year in any discipline within the area of Korean studies, broadly defined. The competition is open to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Past Recipients:
9th Annual Prize (2020)
8th Annual Prize (2019)
7th Annual Prize (2018)
6th Annual Prize (2017)
5th Annual Prize (2016)
4th Annual Prize (2015)
3rd Annual Prize (2014)
2nd Annual Prize (2013)
1st Annual Prize (2012)

 

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