Demographics
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Gi-Wook Shin
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This essay originally appeared in Korean on November 27 in Sindonga (New East Asia), Korea’s oldest monthly magazine (established 1931), as part of a monthly column, "Shin’s Reflections on Korea." Translated by Raymond Ha. A PDF version of this essay is also available to download. 



Two great waves of change are sweeping across the world. The first is the economic and technological transformation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. At the same time, declining birth rates and aging populations have triggered social and demographic changes, mostly in developed countries. The global demand for highly skilled labor is rising to due to rapid technological progress, but the working-age population is shrinking. This has created a widening supply-demand imbalance for global talent. Companies and countries are locked in a fierce competition to attract the most talented individuals.

Korea is no exception. It severely lacks the workforce that it needs to successfully navigate the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Moreover, the demographic changes noted above are proceeding at a much faster pace in Korea than in other developed countries. Until now, Korea has focused on attracting low-skilled labor from abroad to address domestic labor shortages. However, Korea must now pivot to attracting high-skilled talent from across the world to safeguard its future. New economic and demographic realities leave no alternative.

Although it faces such formidable challenges, Korea is lagging far behind in the global competition to attract talent. It does not present a welcoming environment for foreign workers. The size of Korea’s economy ranks in the top 15 worldwide, but it ranked 27 out of 134 countries in INSEAD’s 2021 Global Talent Competitiveness Index.[1] Specifically, it falls worryingly short on two elements that are central to talent competitiveness: brain gain and tolerance for immigrants, respectively ranking at 45 and 65.

If Korea is to overcome its current demographic crisis and find a new engine of economic growth amidst the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is vital to formulate policies and strategies to attract and utilize highly skilled talent from abroad.
Gi-Wook Shin

If Korea is to overcome its current demographic crisis and find a new engine of economic growth amidst the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is vital to formulate policies and strategies to attract and utilize highly skilled talent from abroad. To be sure, the government has recognized this problem for many years. The Presidential Committee on Aging Society and Population Policy was formed in 2005, and the Yoon Suk-Yeol administration is preparing to create a new agency to coordinate and direct immigration policy.[2] Nonetheless, government policies still fall short in many respects. Countries with a long history of immigration, such as the United States and Australia, are taking proactive steps to attract global talent. The same holds true of countries that have key historical and social similarities with Korea, including Japan and Germany. What can Korea learn from their experiences?

The Front Lines of a Global Talent War

The 21st century has given rise to a veritable global war to attract talent. The competition is quickly intensifying in cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data, self-driving vehicles, and robotics. Faced with falling birth rates and aging populations, many developed countries are eager to attract global talent. Since demand for such talent is not confined to any region or country, highly skilled individuals are crossing oceans and continents to destinations that provide the most promising opportunities. These individuals consider not only potential wages, but also quality of life and the socioeconomic environment. As their skills are in high demand, they hold all the cards.

Political factors, such as the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment and chauvinistic nationalism, are also having a significant impact on talent flows. Tensions between China and the United States, especially in the areas of technology and information, further complicate the picture. Silicon Valley is at the front lines of this Sino-U.S. competition, as well as the global war to attract talent. There is a sense of urgency in the struggle against China to secure talent in critical technologies like those mentioned above. Trade disputes between Washington and Beijing are only the tip of the iceberg. The real battle is taking place over technology, information, and the highly skilled individuals who work in these sectors. Since the Chinese government is making a concerted effort to gain the upper hand in talent recruitment, the United States is compelled to respond. The Biden administration has been taking legislative steps at home and crafting multilateral initiatives abroad to bolster economic security in key sectors, including semiconductors.[3]

The rise and fall of global companies over the past 30 years highlights the gravity of the global war to attract talent in the technology sector. As of April 2022, the top five companies in the world in terms of market capitalization were Apple, Saudi Aramco, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), and Amazon.[4] With the exception of Saudi Aramco, which has benefited from the recent surge in oil prices, all of them are relatively young IT companies that have amassed enormous wealth by utilizing advanced technologies. These companies heavily rely on talent from countries across the world, including China and India. The battle between the United States and China to attract talent in these fields will only grow more complex in the years to come.

In 1989, which marked the heyday of Japan’s postwar economy, the situation was quite different: 7 of the top 10 and 32 of the top 50 companies in the world were Japanese. Thirty years on, there are no Japanese companies in the top 30. Only Toyota barely clings on to the top 50.[5] While Japanese companies succeeded in creating products for a global market, a rigid organizational culture and the failure to attract overseas talent precipitated a prolonged economic decline. Japan fell behind in the competition to attract global talent because of an inward-looking and exclusionary corporate culture.

Korea should reflect on Japan’s experience, as it is in the midst of an unprecedented perfect storm. It is facing a crisis on three fronts: a plummeting birth rate, an aging population, and a serious brain drain.
Gi-Wook Shin

Korea should reflect on Japan’s experience, as it is in the midst of an unprecedented perfect storm. It is facing a crisis on three fronts: a plummeting birth rate, an aging population, and a serious brain drain. The first two crises are leading to a shrinking working-age population in the coming decades. In addition, the ongoing brain drain will have grave repercussions for Korea’s future by thinning out its domestic talent pool.

Korea and Japan in an Aging World

In the past, Korea focused on achieving economic growth by controlling population growth. Under Park Chung-Hee, for instance, the South Korean government recognized population policy as an integral element of its plans for economic development. It increased access to contraceptives and launched a nationwide campaign to encourage people to have fewer children.[6] Little thought was given, however, to how a low birth rate and an aging population would affect the economy. In addition, several socioeconomic changes and strains have also further contributed to South Korea’s declining birth rates and population: expensive housing, intense job market competition, and young people choosing to pursue their careers over starting families. However, Japan’s experiences prove cautionary: among advanced countries, Japan was the first to encounter a demographic crisis, and its failure to anticipate and properly respond to this problem was an important factor in its economic slowdown. The country’s “Lost Two Decades” were partly related to sudden changes in its birth rate and population age structure.

Korea’s demographic crisis is unfolding at a much faster pace. Its birth rate is already lower than that of Japan, and its population is aging more quickly. . . these demographic changes will have far-reaching effects on Korea’s society and economy.
Gi-Wook Shin

Korea’s demographic crisis is unfolding at a much faster pace. Its birth rate is already lower than that of Japan, and its population is aging more quickly. Combined with the severe brain drain, these demographic changes will have far-reaching effects on Korea’s society and economy.

According to Korea’s national statistical office, 260,600 infants were born in 2021.[7] This represents a 4.3% decline compared to the previous year. The annual figure hovered around 600,000 until 2000, but it has fallen to less than half that figure in only two decades. In terms of the total fertility rate (TFR), Korea fell from 0.84 in 2020 to 0.81 in 2021. This statistic represents the average number of children that a woman would have by the end of her reproductive period (age 15 to 49).[8] Simply put, Korea has reached the point where the average woman does not give birth to even one child over her lifetime.

The OECD classifies countries with a TFR of 1.3 or lower as having an extremely low birth rate. Korea entered this category in 2002. Of the 38 OECD member states, Korea has had the lowest birth rate since 2017. The impact of this demographic downturn is already clear, with a noticeable decline in the population of college-age students.[9] Korea’s economy will have an ever-shrinking domestic pool of talent to draw from.

Korea’s population is also aging rapidly. It is projected to become an “extremely aged society” by 2025, when 20.6% of its population will be 65 or older. This figure is expected to reach 40% by the middle of the century. The pace of this change is much faster than it was in Japan, which is well known across the world as an aged society. An Aging World: 2015, a 2016 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, predicts that Korea will become the second-most aged society by 2050, exceeded only by Japan. Korea had been one of the youngest countries, it notes, but will become one of the oldest in the next 50 years.[10]

Korea’s government may have succeeded in its efforts to control population growth, thereby facilitating the “Miracle on the Han River,” but the demographic consequences of those policies now pose a significant obstacle to the country’s sustainable development. The working-age population (age 15 to 64) peaked at 73.2% of the population in 2017. This proportion will plunge to 66.0% by 2030 and 51.1% by 2050. A shrinking labor force will have to shoulder an increasingly heavy burden to support the elderly.

While the government already recognized the gravity of the problem many years ago, its efforts to alleviate the situation have yielded only dismal results. It poured $200 billion into various initiatives aimed at lifting the birth rate over the last 16 years, but the country now has the lowest fertility rate.[11] Attempts to address the aging problem have also been unsuccessful. Although the government is allocating greater resources to deal with the issue, the situation is dire. The relative poverty rate among the elderly reached 40.4% in 2020.[12] In addition, the suicide rate among the elderly was 54.8 per 100,000 in 2017. This is 3.2 times the OECD average. More resources are required to effectively address the problem, which is likely to worsen in the coming decades.

Exit: An Outflow of Talent

These population issues are compounded by the fact that Korea is also experiencing a serious brain drain. This is especially pronounced among highly educated individuals in STEM fields, who will play a vital role in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In 2016, the Biological Research Information Center, an online forum for biologists in Korea, surveyed 1,005 of its members about this issue. When asked, “If you had to find a job within a year, would you prefer staying in Korea or going abroad?” 47% of respondents indicated that they would look overseas.[13]Furthermore, Korean students who graduate from PhD programs in the United States in STEM fields mostly prefer to find jobs in America instead of returning home. Around half of these individuals remain in the United States after graduation, and the number has grown over time. In 2011, the 5-year stay rate of Koreans who had graduated with a PhD from the United States in science or engineering was 42%.[14] In 2017, it was 57%.[15]

Companies in China and Europe are working hard to recruit Korean talent in advanced technologies. Northvolt, a Swedish battery manufacturer, revealed that it hired personnel from LG Chemical to play a central role on its own R&D team soon after the company was established. The electric vehicle division of China’s Evergrande Group is hiring talent from abroad, including Korea. As the Sino-U.S. competition intensifies, Chinese companies are pulling out all the stops to attract foreign talent in key sectors, including the semiconductor industry. They are offering salaries that are two to four times higher than what Korean companies can provide. There are growing concerns that a brain drain could also lead to an outflow of critical technologies.

According to a 2016 report by the Swiss-based Institute for Management Development, Korea ranked 41st of 63 countries in terms of brain drain and 33rd in terms of brain gain.[16] The countries analyzed in this report can be divided into four groups, depending on whether they rank high or low on the two dimensions of brain drain and brain gain. Countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have low brain drain and high brain gain, which means that they can draw on a large talent pool. Korea, Japan, and Taiwan are in the opposite situation. They have high brain drain and low brain gain. Even among this group, Korea shows the largest gap between talent inflow and outflow. It finds itself in an especially disadvantageous position as it enters the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

There is no time to lose. If Korea is to find its way out of the perfect storm of a demographic decline compounded by a brain drain, it must be able to attract and rely on foreign talent. It cannot remain a bystander in the intensifying global competition to recruit talent. Until now, Korea has mostly drawn on low-skilled workers from China and Southeast Asian countries. As of 2021, there were 855,000 such migrant workers in Korea. The number of highly skilled migrant workers is less than 10% of this figure. There must be a shift toward attracting foreign talent before it is too late.

Concerns about the possible economic costs of high-skilled immigration fail to appreciate the bigger picture. An influx of foreign talent could contribute to job creation, especially in the skilled sector, thereby alleviating youth unemployment.
Gi-Wook Shin

This will not be a straightforward task. Immigration is a highly sensitive issue in Korea. Chronic youth unemployment, especially among college graduates, continues to be a serious problem. This is largely due to a mismatch in Korea’s labor market, whereby there is strong preference among young Koreans for skilled, professional jobs, which are on a decline.[17] As youth unemployment is a structural problem that cannot be quickly resolved, the public will be anything but receptive to calls for high-skilled immigration. A wave of anti-immigrant sentiment swept across Europe and reached the shores of the United States, where Trump entered the White House by capitalizing on the anger of white working-class voters. It would be unwise to ignore similar political undercurrents in Korea. Nevertheless, concerns about the possible economic costs of high-skilled immigration fail to appreciate the bigger picture. An influx of foreign talent could contribute to job creation, especially in the skilled sector, thereby alleviating youth unemployment. Moreover, assembling a diverse workforce will stimulate creativity, which plays a pivotal role in the technology sector.[18]

Who Will Make the Next iPhone?

Silicon Valley provides an important data point for informing discussions in Korea about high-skilled immigration. The region’s success would not be possible without the unique history of the United States as a nation of immigrants. However, it is the inclusive culture of Silicon Valley, which recruits diverse talent without regard for ethnicity or nationality, that has enabled its companies to become the driving engine of the global economy. In only 30 years, these individuals have transformed the orchards and vineyards of a small corner of northern California into the global epicenter of the technology industry. Some of them first arrived as students at Stanford or UC Berkeley and then settled down in the Bay Area. Others came in search of jobs from the very beginning. Together, they are competing and collaborating with each other as they push humanity toward new frontiers of technological innovation.

Without such a multinational, multiethnic workforce, Silicon Valley as we know it would not exist. It stands at the cutting edge of technologies that define the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including AI, self-driving vehicles, augmented reality, and IoT. The brightest minds in the world have gathered in Silicon Valley from all corners of the globe. It is no coincidence that engineers and entrepreneurs of Indian, Chinese, and Taiwanese heritage play a leading role in the region’s largest companies. Sundar Pichai (Google), Satya Nadella (Microsoft), and Rajeev Suri (Nokia) all completed their undergraduate studies in India before coming to the United States to build their careers. Jen-Hsun Huang (Nvidia) and Steven Chen (YouTube), both prominent figures in Silicon Valley, emigrated to the United States from Taiwan at a young age. Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the president of Stanford University, came to the United States as a post-doc after completing his PhD in France. It is common to see other faculty members who first came to the United States as students from India or China.

The INVEST Act of 2012, introduced by representatives Adam Schiff and Charles Bass, provides a pathway for foreign students in STEM fields to create companies and obtain permanent residency in the United States. In a March 2012 op-ed, Schiff and Bass observe that “for every foreign-born worker who puts his or her advanced degree to work in this country, more than two jobs for American-born workers are created.” They stress that “our universities are educating the next generation of Steve Jobs’; let’s make sure that they build the next Apple—and the next iPhone—in the United States.”[19] At a congressional hearing in 2008, Bill Gates similarly noted that “Microsoft hires four Americans for supporting roles for every high-skilled H-1B visa holder it hires,” calling on the U.S. government to take proactive measures to attract foreign talent.[20]

Around a quarter of all technology and engineering-related companies created in the United States between 2006 and 2012 were formed by immigrants. In Silicon Valley, the proportion is nearly 50%.[21] The experiences of first-generation immigrant entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX), Sergey Brin (Google), Andrew Grove (Intel), and Vinod Khosla (Sun Microsystems) are anything but exceptional. One analysis finds that “immigrant founders from top venture-backed firms have created an estimated average of 150 jobs per company.”[22] Numerous studies demonstrate that high-skilled immigration, instead of taking jobs away from native-born workers, leads to job creation and promotes economic development through technological innovation. Companies such as Google, Apple, and Facebook (Meta) spoke out strongly against the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies for this very reason.

Making the Most of Global Talent Flows

Many countries have now entered the global competition for talent, some of which bear similarities to Korea. Widely hailed for its success as a “startup nation,” Israel was able to develop its economy by attracting talent from diverse countries. Just like Korea, Israel lacks natural resources and is located in a volatile, conflict-prone region. Despite these disadvantages, Israel succeeded in recruiting foreign talent and attracting multinational companies. After the Soviet Union collapsed, there was a large influx of immigrants into Israel. Many of them were professors, scientists, and engineers, and their skills and experiences played a pivotal role in facilitating Israel’s economic growth.[23]

Germany, which is arguably the originator of ethnic nationalism, also merits a closer look. Before 2000, Germany enforced stringent restrictions on high-skilled immigration for foreign talent. Concerns about its declining birth rate, aging population, and shortage of highly trained STEM personnel prompted the government to revise its immigration policies. It introduced a “Blue Card” system in 2012 that enabled highly qualified foreign workers to seek employment in Germany. In only two years, Germany succeeded in attracting 17,000 individuals through this system from non-EU member states. Unlike the United Kingdom or France, where anti-immigrant sentiment remains prevalent, Germany is poised to further expand high-skilled immigration. This will bring economic benefits that will cement the country’s role as a pillar of the EU.

Japan has also transformed its policies to overcome its demographic malaise. While it previously focused on low-skilled immigration for “3D” occupations, just as Korea has, Japan has now set its sights on attracting foreign talent.[24] One of the major elements of Abenomics was attracting foreign talent. The government announced a plan to host 300,000 foreign students. It provided tailored assistance at every step of the way, from admissions to graduation and job preparation. In particular, foreign students who sought to find employment in Japan after graduation were offered career counseling and employment assistance. Visa regulations were amended to allow such students to stay in Japan for a year while seeking employment. There has already been a change in atmosphere among Japanese businesses. In a survey of 732 Japanese companies in December 2018, 57.2% indicated that they had already hired (or planned to hire) a foreign worker with a college degree.[25]

China has also thrown its hat in the ring. Hao Zhen, chief consultant for Zhaopin, a popular Chinese job search website, noted that “China desperately needs highly skilled workers in AI and other sectors, but it does not have an education system that is capable of creating such a workforce.” This is “why major Chinese IT companies such as Baidu and Alibaba are seeking to recruit foreign talent,” Hao added.[26] China is taking steps to promote high-skilled immigration by relaxing regulations for employment visas and permanent residence. These policies were initiated by the central government, but in 2016 these measures were also extended to immigration policies at the provincial level. Furthermore, the Chinese government also introduced a policy to provide permanent residence to foreigners who start a company in Zhongguancun, also known as China’s Silicon Valley, provided that they meet certain criteria.

Time to Tear Down the Walls

A truly global competition is underway to attract highly skilled workers, and it is past time for Korea to join the fray. This is matter of survival for Korea, given its demographic crises and brain drain. There is a pressing need to form a public consensus in Korea on high-skilled immigration.

Any number of policy proposals could help attract foreign talent. One example that could be implemented with relative ease is to draw foreign students into the labor market. . . . These students have the potential to make valuable contributions to Korea’s society and economy.
Gi-Wook Shin

Any number of policy proposals could help attract foreign talent. One example that could be implemented with relative ease in Korea is to draw foreign students into the labor market. Although the number of foreign students has surpassed 100,000, hosting foreign students is still primarily seen as a means of compensating for declining enrollment numbers at home. These students have the potential to make valuable contributions to Korea’s society and economy, but as some have noted, they are not always as skilled or qualified as their Korean counterparts. Moreover, the industries they seek to enter are not necessarily the ones where Korea needs foreign talent. This could be remedied by establishing a comprehensive system to nurture and train foreign students, starting from the admissions process. This can help ensure that foreign students play an essential role in Korea’s economy, especially in sectors that face critical labor shortages. Creating successful pathways to employment for foreign students will help attract even more students down the line.

The United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and now Japan have already taken similar steps. In Japan, around 30,000 foreign students found jobs in 2019 after graduating. Assuming that around a quarter of the 300,000 foreign students in Japan graduated after full-time enrollment, the employment rate is roughly 40%. The goal is to reach 50% employment for foreign-born graduates, and the current success rate is already playing an important role in attracting more talented students from abroad. Korea should also put in place the institutions to enable this virtuous cycle and use global talent flows to its advantage.

Drawing highly skilled foreign workers into Korea’s economy will not only strengthen the overall talent pool, but also stimulate creative thinking and enhance productivity by raising cultural diversity.[27] In an industrial economy, it was vital to have a homogeneous and cohesive workforce that could quickly and efficiently achieve a given objective. We now live in an economy where creativity and innovation are the order of the day. There is an emphasis on the power of creative destruction. Korea remains one of the most homogeneous societies in the world, and Koreans have traditionally placed a high value on ethnic and cultural unity. Increasing diversity is an urgent and daunting challenge. An influx of global talent could help revitalize Korea’s economy and stimulate technological innovation. The recent surge of interest in Korean culture across the world could provide a crucial window of opportunity to attract foreign talent.[28]

In this vein, it is timely that the Yoon administration is preparing to establish a new agency to handle immigration policy. However, it will not be enough to revise the Immigration Act or pass laws to create new institutions. There must be a profound social and cultural transformation. In particular, Koreans must tear down the walls of their exclusionary “super-networks,” which are often built around common alma maters, shared regional backgrounds, and family ties. We must move beyond the emphasis on purity and homogeneity. Only then can Korea foster an open, inclusive, and tolerant culture where individuals of diverse backgrounds can freely come together and strive for new heights of innovation.

Two thousand years ago, all roads led to Rome. When in Rome, as the saying goes, people had to “do as the Romans do.” We now live in a world of complex global talent flows, where highly skilled individuals around the world cross oceans and continents to seek the most promising opportunities. If Koreans insist that foreigners “do as the Koreans do,” they will simply look elsewhere.


 

[1] Bruno Lanvin and Felipe Monteiro, eds., The Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2021: Talent Competitiveness in Times of COVID (Fontainebleau, France: INSEAD, 2021), https://www.insead.edu/sites/default/files/assets/dept/fr/gtci/GTCI-2021-Report.pdf. The full breakdown of Korea’s scores is on p. 146.

[2] Lee Hyo-Jin, “Gov’t Prepares to Set Up Migrant Policy Agency,” Korea Times, November 9, 2022, https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2022/11/177_339429.html.

[3] Gi-Wook Shin, “Walking a Tightrope,” Shorenstein APARC, November 16, 2022, https://aparc.fsi.stanford.edu/news/walking-tightrope.

[4] “The 100 Largest Companies in the World by Market Capitalization in 2022,” Statista, May 2022, accessed November 30, 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/263264/top-companies-in-the-world-by-market-capitalization/.

[5] “100 Largest Companies in the World,” Statista.

[6] Wie Young, “Korea’s Population Policy, Past and Present” [in Korean], Quarterly Journal of the National Archives of Korea 16 (2011): 72–74, https://www.archives.go.kr/archivesdata/upFile/palgan/1320392249078.pdf.

[7] Unless noted otherwise, all population statistics in this section are from KOSIS (Korean Statistical Information Service), Korea’s national statistical office, https://kosis.kr/index/index.do.

[8] The full definition of TFR given by the World Health Organization is “the average number of children a hypothetical cohort of women would have at the end of their reproductive period if they were subject during their whole lives to the fertility rates of a given period and if they were not subject to mortality.” See “Total Fertility Rate (per Woman),” WHO, https://www.who.int/data/gho/indicator-metadata-registry/imr-details/123.

[9] Children who were born in 2002, when Korea’s TFR first fell below 1.3, would have entered college in 2020.

[10] Wan He, Daniel Goodkind, and Paul Kowal, An Aging World: 2015 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Publishing Office, 2016), https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/p95-16-1.pdf.

[11] Paula Hancocks, “South Korea Spent $200 Billion, but It Can’t Pay People Enough to Have a Baby,” CNN, December 4, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/03/asia/south-korea-worlds-lowest-fertility-rate-intl-hnk-dst/index.html.

[12] This is defined as the proportion of households among the elderly population (65 or over) whose disposable income falls below the poverty line. The poverty line is defined as 50% of the median household disposable income for the entire population. See also “Relative Poverty Rate of Elderly Is Highest Among OECD Member Countries,” Dong-A Ilbo, April 7, 2022, https://www.donga.com/en/article/all/20220407/3299509/1.

[13] Lee Kang-Soo and Park Ji-Min, “A Survey Regarding the Brain Drain among STEM Personnel” [in Korean], Biological Research Information Center, July 12, 2016, https://www.ibric.org/myboard/print.php?Board=report&id=2534.

[14] The 5-year stay rate counts foreign students who remain in the United States for five years after their PhD is awarded. This represents an increase from 10 years prior, when the stay rate was 22%. See “Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients,” Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, https://orise.orau.gov/stem/workforce-studies/stay-rates-of-foreign-doctorate-recipients.html.

[15] “Survey of Doctorate Recipients: Survey Year 2017,” National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Science Foundation, 2017, https://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/doctoratework/2017/.

[16] The 2016 IMD World Talent Report (Lausanne, Switzerland: Institute for Management Development, 2016), https://www.imd.org/contentassets/5665db95f401437a802c0d86aaa2dfb1/com_november_2016.pdf.

[17] Kyungsoo Choi, “Why Korea’s Youth Unemployment Rate Rises,” KDI Focus 88 (2017): 4. https://doi.org/10.22740/kdi.focus.e.2017.88.

[18] See Gi-Wook Shin, “Beyond Representation: How Diversity Can Unleash Korea’s Innovation,” Shorenstein APARC, June 30, 2022, https://aparc.fsi.stanford.edu/news/beyond-representation-how-diversity-can-unleash-korea%E2%80%99s-innovation.

[19] Adam Schiff and Charlie Bass, “Winning the Global War for Talent,” Glendale News-Press, March 10, 2012, https://www.latimes.com/socal/glendale-news-press/news/tn-gnp-xpm-2012-03-10-tn-pas-0311-congressman-adam-schiff-and-congressman-charlie-basson-winning-the-global-war-for-talent-story.html.

[20] Timothy B. Lee, “Gates to Congress: Microsoft Needs More H-1B Visas,” Ars Technica, March 13, 2008, https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2008/03/gates-to-congress-microsoft-needs-more-h1-b-visas/.

[21] Sarah McBride, “One Quarter of U.S. Tech Start-Ups Founded by an Immigrant: Study,” Reuters, October 2, 2012, http://reut.rs/Wduege.

[22] Jason Wiens, Chris Jackson, and Emily Fetsch, “Immigrant Entrepreneurs: A Path to U.S. Economic Growth,” Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, January 21, 2015, https://www.kauffman.org/resources/entrepreneurship-policy-digest/immigrant-entrepreneurs-a-path-to-us-economic-growth/.

[23] Shin, “Beyond Representation.”

[24] 3D jobs are those that are dirty, dangerous, and demeaning (or demanding/difficult). 

[25] Yuta Koyanagi, “More Japanese Companies Hire Talent from Overseas Universities,” Nikkei Asia, January 30, 2019, https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Business-trends/More-Japanese-companies-hire-talent-from-overseas-universities.

[26] Kim Dong-Yoon, “Baidu’s Li Yanhong to Silicon Valley Developers: If You Don’t Like Trump, Come to China” [in Korean], Korea Economic Daily, November 20, 2016, https://www.hankyung.com/international/article/2016112020801.

[27] Shin, “Beyond Representation.”

[28] See Gi-Wook Shin, “Will Hallyu Swell to a Tidal Wave? Korea’s Future as a Cultural Superpower,” Shorenstein APARC, August 1, 2022, https://aparc.fsi.stanford.edu/news/will-hallyu-swell-tidal-wave-koreas-future-cultural-superpower.

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Can Korea Avoid Japan’s Lost Decade?

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Book cover of Privilege and Anxiety by Hagen Koo
The middle classes in most advanced economies today are frequently described as being “squeezed” and “shrinking.”  Hagen Koo’s recent book, Privilege and Anxiety, examines what has happened to the Korean middle class in the era of rapid globalization and demonstrates that the middle class experiences far more complex changes than usually assumed. Koo argues that globalization inserts an axis of polarization into the middle class, separating a small minority that benefits from the globalized economy and a large majority that suffers from it. This internal differentiation generates new class dynamics, as the newly affluent seek to distinguish themselves from the rest of the middle class and establish a new, privileged class position. The rest of the middle class tries to follow the affluent’s class practices, suffering great anxieties and frustrations. The middle class thus turns into an arena of intense class distinction struggles, bringing great anxieties to both the affluent and the lower segments of the middle.

 

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Portrait of Hagen Koo
Hagen Koo is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Born in Korea, Koo received his BA in Korea and briefly worked as a journalist before coming to America where he received a PhD at Northwestern University. He has published extensively on economic development and social change in South Korea. His major work includes Korean Workers: The Culture and Politics of Class Formation (Cornell University Press, 2001). After his retirement in 2017, he spends more time in Korea studying the changing social fabric of Korean society in the global era. Privilege and Anxiety (Cornell University Press, 2022) represents his most recent work.

Discussants:

Alek Sigley is a PhD student at Stanford University's Modern Thought and Literature program, where he is writing a dissertation on North Korea. From 2018-2019 he studied for a master's degree in contemporary North Korean fiction at Kim Il Sung University's College of Literature. He speaks Mandarin, Korean and Japanese. Follow him on Twitter @AlekSigley.

Elisa Kim is a PhD candidate in the department of sociology at Stanford University. Her dissertation theorizes on racialization by systematically investigating the portrayal of minority groups in South Korean newspapers across time using computational methods. Prior to the PhD, she majored in Asian American Studies at Pomona College and has an MA in East Asian Studies from Stanford, researching the relational landscape of North Korean human rights organizations.

Gi-Wook Shin

Via Zoom. Register at https://bit.ly/3z8fJog

Hagen Koo Professor Emeritus of Sociology Author The University of Hawaii at Manoa
Seminars
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Melissa Morgan
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Paragraphs

The start of the academic year always comes with an exciting rush of new classes, new school supplies, and new faces. At the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), one of the highlights of Fall Quarter is welcoming a new cohort of students into the Ford Dorsey Master’s of International Policy (MIP) into our research community.

The MIP Class of 2024 is 28 students strong and comes to FSI from 15 different countries around the world, including Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Germany, India, Indonesia, Libya, Mexico, Norway, Singapore, Thailand, Uganda, United Kingdom, and the United States. 

From working to eliminate food insecurity to dissecting the challenges of privacy for blockchains, this year’s cohort brings an incredible variety of unique experiences to their studies in MIP. To talk more about their journeys to Stanford, seven members of the new MIP class shared their stories of how they came to be interested in policy, and what impacts they are hoping to make on the world.

Keep reading to learn more about Pamella Ahairwe, Sarah Brakebill-Hacke, Poramin Insom, Ibilola Owoyele, Raul Ruiz-Solis, Elliot Stewart, and Ashwini Thakare.


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Pamella Ahairwe; from Kampala, Uganda; studying Governance and Development (GOVDEV); is an aspiring poet exploring ways to merge policy with verse

Pamella Ahairwe
Pamella Ahairwe

I was born and grew up in Uganda. I have also been lucky to travel and live in other African countries — Kenya and Botswana — as well as European countries, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. These adventures have helped me understand first-hand the diversities that exist between the Global North and the Global South. They have also taught me that in the journey to advance the socio-economic transformation of the Global South, international development partnerships play a vital role in complementing local development efforts.

Although the economic impediments that developing countries face are many, they are not impossible to address. Tackling them requires that we implement every viable intervention, national or international, big or small, private or public, that creates a positive change on people, systems and institutions. I have always been impact-driven and I would like to continue influencing the positive changes towards sustainable development from the international development perspective. This, in addition to my background career in the international development space, was a driving factor in wanting to join the Stanford community and pursue further studies in International policy.

Like many development economists, I am interested in a series of thematic areas but mostly, technology economics, energy, climate change, development finance, and the political economy aspects of developing countries. For example, I am interested in how we can use safe and secure digital solutions to promote financial inclusion, access to high quality education and health services, reduce inequalities, and create job opportunities in the Global South. This will be possible by bridging the gap between policies and practices, and by learning from the success stories already making an impact.

I am looking forward to both courses on technology policy and being able to observe the innovation ecosystem of Silicon Valley. I hope to learn how ideas in Silicon Valley might apply to developing the African digital economy, especially in supporting the African homemade digital solutions in a practical way.


Sarah Brakehill-Hacke
Sarah Brakehill-Hacke

To understand where I am now and why I’m so passionate about what I’m doing, it’s important to have some context about where I came from. I grew up in a really rough background. I was in foster care for most of my young life, and I only formally completed sixth grade before dropping out. I went to part of ninth grade, but when I was sixteen I became homeless with my young son.

Eventually, I did get my GED and tried going to community college for a while. But the processes for getting financial aid and registration were so difficult and frustrating to navigate that I became disillusioned with the entire system and dropped out. The systems weren’t just unhelpful; they were actively hurting. I got my resources together and got a van, and we went back on the road.

One day, I stopped in a Walmart parking lot to rest, and I saw some people passing out flyers and gathering signatures for a petition. I was so curious; I had never seen anything like that before! They invited me to their meetings to learn more. That lit a fire in me that changed everything. It was so much more than having an income for the first time in my life. It was about representation and having a voice. It was about voting to change things. It was about people having power.

My goals now are focused on food security and creating policies that prioritize basic needs. After my experience with working in canvassing, I went back to community college. Once there, I started to find students who were hungry and struggling with food. After doing some investigating, I learned that almost 60% of the student body had experienced some level of food insecurity in the last 30 days. That realization turned into a campaign to provide $20,000 in emergency food aid and serve hot meals on campus twice a week. The work we started was eventually adopted and transformed into the state-wide Hunger Free Campus initiative in Minnesota.

So many problems facing our societies have their roots in poverty, want, and broken systems that fail to serve people. There’s a real divide between people who need help from systems and the policymakers and people in power who are making the systems and moving things forward. I’ve lived the reality of one side of that equation. Everything I’ve done since at Yale and Cambridge, and what I’m doing now at MIP, is to try and build bridges and bring a different kind of context and perspective to the other side. I’m excited to work and learn from faculty like Marshall Burke and Roz Naylor at the Center for Food, Security, and the Environment, and to keep learning how to make policies and that work for people.
 

It's about so much more than having an income. It's about representation and having a voice. It's about voting to change things. It's about people having power.
Sarah Brakebill-Hacke
Internartional Security (ISEC)


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Poramin Insom; from Phana, Thailand; studying Cyber Policy and Security (CYBER); follower of Anapanasati meditation and amateur sommelier

Poramin Insom
Poramin Insom

My interest in cyber started where it does for a lot of kids: with video games in high school. I found a coding modification for one of the games I liked playing that allowed me to get unlimited money. It was great for my success in the game, but it also made me really interested in how the software and programming worked. That got me into coding, which gave me the background I needed to eventually co-found Firo, which is a privacy-focused cryptocurrency.

That emphasis on privacy is important. Blockchain technology is very secure, but it still has some privacy issues that we need to think about more. We don’t want to be in a situation where in twenty years, cryptocurrencies and blockchains have the same kind of privacy concerns we’re currently seeing in our social media data.

Most people have probably heard about blockchain in the context of cryptocurrency, but it has the potential for many more other applications. One of the big issues in the world right now is finding ways to make it easier for more people to participate securely in democracy without interference from regimes or with questions over election integrity or voting security. Secure and private blockchains could be used in those situations.

The Stanford MIP program was actually the only program I applied to after I made the decision to come back to school, because of its unique focus on both cyber policy and cybersecurity, which are equally important, but not the same thing. I have technical experience in cyber security from my time in the military and my study at Johns Hopkins. The piece I’m missing is the cyber policy and thinking about how cyber interacts with society and government. MIP felt like the best place to learn about those kinds of issues and decision-making processes.


Ibilola Owoyele
Ibilola Owoyele

I’ve been cultivating a focus on West Africa and development in that region for a while now. Before coming back to school, I was working with Chemonics International, USAID’s largest implementing partner, on programs aimed at improving Haiti’s judicial sector, countering violent extremism in Mauritania, and facilitating agribusiness investments in the DRC.
 
Before Chemonics, I was in Benin as a Princeton-in-Africa Fellow, where I worked for the African School of Economics’ Institute for Empirical Research on impact evaluation of donor-funded programs. Being involved with the end results of a project made me more curious about the earlier phases of program development. How do donors choose where and how to intervene? Can programs truly align with both U.S. policy and host countries’ goals and priorities?

As a U.S Pickering Fellow, I am on my way to becoming a Foreign Service Officer (FSO), and I am excited to apply the knowledge I gain from Stanford professors with expertise on policy development and African affairs to obtain answers. I plan to study and work within West Africa’s economic sphere, hopefully collaborating with entrepreneurs, governments, and the private sector to improve the business-enabling environments in various countries, bolster the sustainability of private supply chains, and amplify the voices of women experts working within this realm.

There’s a freshness and flexibility at MIP that really appealed to me, as I wanted to tap into a network of people who have diverse interests and can provide a holistic perspective on these issues. Groups like the Stanford African Entrepreneurship Network have connected me to other like-minded individuals who are working towards Africa’s growth and sustainable development.
 
I’ll be working as an FSO for at least five years after my graduation, and I know I want to keep focusing on West Africa and Haiti. As a Nigerian-American, I am excited to approach my studies at Stanford through a lens that not only reflects African Studies with humility and interconnection, but also amplifies the voices of young continental Africans pushing these questions forward.


Raul Ruiz-Solis
Raul Ruiz-Solis

I had the opportunity to work for about four years at the Embassy of Mexico in the United States. It was while I was in Washington D.C. that I really started to think about and realize what a big topic cyberspace is. It’s so common in our lives, but we still don’t really understand a lot of the specifics about it. If you were to lose your phone, for example, you’d also be losing your bank account information, your email, and your contacts. Everything is so connected, the world is deeply embedded in the cyber domain, and because of this, we need more insight into how intersections between social phenomena and new technologies work.

Cyberspace and technologies come with this duality. On the one side, they are tools for growth and for progress, but on the other side, they can be very dangerous. For example, parallel to the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw digital platforms become key avenues for political engagement as electoral campaigning went completely online. But all of this misinformation and lies about elections, and the pandemic itself, came out of that space. There’s a gap and a disconnect, sometimes, between what’s happening in the private sector in the companies that are building and running this tech and what’s happening in the public sector with understanding and responding to and regulating. These things evolve so fast that it can be hard for the legislation to keep up.

I’m particularly interested in understanding how online misinformation relates to political participation and influences vaccine hesitancy among minorities, especially Hispanics, Mexican Americans, and Mexicans living in the United States. Because Mexico is a very interconnected country in terms of access to social media, I seek to understand how communication technologies influence public issues in my country. There is already data showing that traditional policy issues like migration, gender violence, healthcare hesitancy, and civic participation are migrating from the physical world and changing and morphing in digital spaces. It is urgent that we understand that a lot better than we do.

There are a few places in the world that do what the Cyber Policy Center here at FSI does. We have these toolkits for traditional policymaking and solution finding, but we’re going to have to develop new toolkits for these new challenges, and places like the Cyber Center are actively trying to do that. To paraphrase Dr. Erin Meyer’s work, in a world that’s ever more connected, you cannot do things just the Mexican way, or the U.S. way; you have to figure out how to lead in a global way. We’re not going to opt out of interconnectedness, so let’s figure out how to work better together in these spaces.
 

We have to figure out how to lead in a global way. We’re not going to opt out of interconnectedness, so let’s figure out how to work better together in these spaces.
Raul Ruiz-Solis
Cyber Policy & Security (CYBER)
Elliot Stewart
Elliot Stewart

I started my undergraduate career later than most, and because of that, I had an outlook to be very purposeful in how I spent my time. I wanted to work on something that was challenging and that I would find endlessly interesting. I chose political science and the Middle East, which led to an internship in Jordan. That turned into six years of work experience with a technology company that was using data and analytics to understand and quantify what was going on in digital spaces.

Through that work, I really started to appreciate the full implications that AI and other emerging technologies have in foreign policy. These technologies aren’t just something we need to contend with as threats and opportunities out there in the world. We need to understand how they’re changing the way we perceive others and ourselves.  

Six hundred years ago, the Gutenberg printing press completely transformed societies. The internet is doing the same thing today, we just don’t have a very clear understanding of what that process is creating. But based on what we’ve seen politically and geopolitically the last few years, it’s obvious we need to get our hands on the reins more and get better answers to these questions. 

I’m particularly interested in how technology is shaping the ways we’re learning to think about China and other emerging geopolitical powers. The international system is changing. It’s becoming less hegemonic and moving toward something much more multi-polar. How actors perceive one another is increasingly consequential. Technology is shaping those perceptions at multiple levels. 

Part of the appeal of coming to MIP was that the leadership and faculty here seem to align a lot with having a cross-disciplinary understanding of the full geopolitical system. And like others have said, being in Silicon Valley and having that proximity was a big draw for me as well. It’s another window into how the bleeding edge of technology is having an impact on policy and other aspects of the world, so coming here seemed like the natural choice.


Ashwini Thakare
Ashwini Thakare

I’m coming to the Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy program from the Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India. Even though I’ve been out of university for about ten years, my process of learning has never stopped. I bring a lot of experience through interaction with people in public leadership, using negotiation and leadership skills, but I want to better understand the process of making data-driven policy. The flexibility of the MIP program and the manner it encourages students to learn across disciplines is, therefore, very appealing to me, as it allows to frame my own learning goals.

I’ve always had a great amount of respect for the environment and an interest in natural resources. Energy touches all of our lives in some way. In my culture, we consider the environment and its resources to be divine. These are gifts given by generations after generations to human beings, and as such we need to conserve them and find ways to ensure a more equitable distribution of energy, so that everybody has access to this necessity.

These are global issues that are going to need global participation to address. When I see places like the island nations, they contribute so much less to the greenhouse gasses, but they are most affected by climate change issues. I want to put myself in a position where I can help visualize policies that mitigate these regional disparities and create more equity.

These are big challenges, but it is possible for people to make a difference. There are so many inspiring stories from all over the world of ordinary people taking the initiative to help conserve and preserve their local resources and educate their communities. When we’re thinking about our policies and how to make them, we have to remember that the data and number crunching are only part of it — it’s people that give them life. Many people are already doing the work. It's our responsibility to learn from them and value their experience.
 

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11th annual Korea Program Prize for Writing in Korean Studies awarded
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11th Annual Korean Studies Writing Prize Awarded

Two PhD students were awarded the 11th annual Korea Program Prize for Writing in Korean Studies for their papers.
11th Annual Korean Studies Writing Prize Awarded
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The 2024 class of the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy has arrived at Stanford eager to learn from our scholars and tackle policy challenges ranging from food security to cryptocurrency privacy.

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Tara manages communications for the Cyber Policy Center, supporting its six programs with graphic design support, social media, print and digital publishing, special events, video editing and other communication needs. Prior to the Cyber Policy Center, Tara was the Communications Manager for the MBA Program at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. Previous to that, she worked at a number of start ups around the Bay Area. She has a Masters in Creative Writing. 

As Tara Cottrell, she is the co-author of Buddha's Diet (Hachette) that has been translated into eight languages, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Czech, Vietnamese, German and Polish. Her fiction has appeared in pint in ZYZZYVA, Missouri Review, Indiana Review, Zoetrope and others. 

Communications Associate,
Cyber Policy Center, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
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Gi-Wook Shin
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This essay originally appeared in Korean on June 16 in Sindonga (New East Asia), Korea’s oldest monthly magazine (established 1931), as the third in a monthly column, "Shin’s Reflections on Korea." Translated by Raymond Ha. A PDF version of this essay is also available to download.


“What is it that Korean entertainment has brought? It’s the greatest example of providing something to the market that doesn’t exist, and it’s what I call ‘female gaze’ entertainment.”

On May 19, the Korea Program at Stanford University hosted a conference to celebrate its 20th anniversary. During a panel discussion on the “Korean Wave” (Hallyu), Angela Killoren, the CEO of CJ ENM America, asserted that Korean content garnered global popularity because it satisfied the interests of female consumers. “Hollywood . . . is very male gaze driven,” she noted, while Korean music and dramas “rekindle a sense of romance” and tend to be told from a female perspective. Women are marginalized in patriarchal cultures, and young women in particular have responded enthusiastically to content that resonates with them.

The next day, South Korea’s newly elected President Yoon Suk-Yeol held his first summit meeting with President Joe Biden in Seoul. At the joint press conference following the summit, a reporter with the Washington Post asked President Yoon about the lack of women among his Cabinet nominees. This was a piercing question for President Yoon, who is already seen as an “anti-feminist” by foreign observers.[1] His discomfort at the question was palpable. Of 19 Cabinet nominees, including the prime minister, he had nominated only three women. Among his vice ministers and vice-ministerial appointees, only two out of 41 were women.

Why Diversity Matters

There was widespread public criticism about the overrepresentation of a specific group of individuals among Yoon’s appointees: men in their 50s and 60s who had graduated from Seoul National University.[2] In response, the administration stated that it had selected the most qualified and experienced individual for each position. The Democratic Party of Korea, the leading opposition party, criticized Yoon’s Cabinet appointments for being imbalanced in terms of policy preferences, alma maters, and regional backgrounds. The opposition Justice Party similarly rebuked the skew toward men from Gyeongsang Province in their 60s.[3]

The “female gaze” that propelled the Korean Wave was not the outcome of a strict meritocracy, and it did not arise from efforts to achieve balanced representation. It resulted from looking beyond the horizon of male-centered viewpoints to value female perspectives.
Gi-Wook Shin

Interestingly enough, both sides interpret this as a question of representation. Those who emphasize meritocracy argue that allocating seats to account for the representation of minorities makes it difficult to achieve results. On the other side, those who criticize the lack of diversity support a balanced composition in terms of gender and regional background, among other considerations. Such focus on “balance” and “representation” limits the discussion. Let us return to Killoren’s explanation for the astonishing global success of the Korean Wave. The “female gaze” that propelled the Korean Wave was not the outcome of a strict meritocracy, and it did not arise from efforts to achieve balanced representation. It resulted from looking beyond the horizon of male-centered viewpoints to value female perspectives.

A diverse group of individuals brings a diversity of opinions to the table. The true strength of diversity, however, is that it encourages people to think outside the box. When people encounter and evaluate different viewpoints and alternatives, this fosters creative, original thinking that drives innovation. Organizations and institutions can thus enhance their overall performance by building a diverse workforce.

South Korea is a patriarchal, “super-networked” society that emphasizes ethnic homogeneity and purity. High value is placed on common alma maters, shared regional backgrounds, and family ties. There is a dire need to enhance appreciation for the value of diversity.
Gi-Wook Shin

Ensuring the equitable representation of minorities and protecting their rights is, of course, a fundamental democratic value and a vital policy objective. Nevertheless, it is now time to approach the issue of diversity not only in terms of balanced representation, but also as a question of effectiveness and innovation. It is especially important to ensure diversity within entities like the Cabinet, which requires a high level of intellectual capacity and judgment.

South Korea is a patriarchal, “super-networked” society that emphasizes ethnic homogeneity and purity. High value is placed on common alma maters, shared regional backgrounds, and family ties. There is a dire need to enhance appreciation for the value of diversity. The era of industrialization called for a homogeneous workforce capable of producing uniform, standardized products. In this context, diversity could hamper efficiency. The new era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, built on creativity and innovation, will increasingly require a rather heterogeneous workforce. Diversity should be recognized as an essential virtue that underlies innovation and success. The future belongs to societies and organizations that understand the true value of diversity.

From Representation to Innovation

In the United States, diversity is one of the most important considerations not only in companies’ hiring decisions, but also when colleges and universities hire professors or admit students. Pursuing diversity was once regarded as a means of empowering minority groups by ensuring that they had access and representation. However, it is now commonly understood that an organization’s capabilities and achievements cannot be maximized without diversity. There are many ways to achieve diversity. A range of factors is considered, including race and ethnicity, age, gender, personal background, and past experiences. It is believed that an organization can overcome groupthink and dismantle a rigid internal culture only if it is composed of diverse individuals. Put differently, innovation and success depend on diversity. Schools, companies, and government entities all have a department that is responsible for improving diversity, and there are many organizations that now have a chief diversity officer (CDO) in addition to a CEO and CFO.

This is a relatively recent phenomenon in American history. As a nation of immigrants, the United States initially pursued assimilation. It only recognized English as the official language. This began to change in the 1960s with the civil rights movement and the emergence of feminism. There were calls to protect and empower minorities and vulnerable groups, and these efforts were also institutionalized. Affirmative action is perhaps the most prominent legacy of this era.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10925, introducing affirmative action for federal contractors. Affirmative action sought to proactively counter discrimination by providing preferential treatment to minorities that were disadvantaged on the basis of “race, creed, color or national origin.”[4] There was an initial emphasis on addressing racial discrimination, but this later expanded to countering discrimination on the basis of sex or disability. In essence, this is similar to practices that are well known in Korea: creating quotas for individuals of particular backgrounds and giving extra points in hiring evaluations or admissions decisions. These practices were most commonly used by companies and universities.

Affirmative action has always been controversial in the United States, with opponents calling for its repeal. Some argue that it fails to solve the problem by creating reverse discrimination, while others claim that it generates new forms of discrimination. The former is raised primarily among white men, while the latter is voiced by Asian Americans. It was charged that high school students who worked hard to achieve high scores were disadvantaged in university admissions because schools applied racial quotas. Although the Supreme Court ruled the use of racial quotas in university admissions to be unconstitutional in the Bakke decision (1978), critics allege that prominent universities still maintain tacit quotas for African and Hispanic American applicants. This fall, the Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in a case brought mainly by Asian American individuals against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina for the use of “race-conscious” admissions programs.[5]

California, where I have lived for many years, is among the most progressive states in the United States. In 1996, however, it became the first state to vote against affirmative action in a statewide referendum when it passed Proposition 209. I was an assistant professor at UCLA at the time, and I vividly remember many heated discussions and debates about this topic among professors, students, local residents, and civil society organizations.

The controversy surrounding affirmative action in California has persisted. Proposition 16, which sought to repeal Proposition 209, was defeated by a wide margin in November 2020. Even in the United States, there is a fraught conversation about pursuing diversity as a means of achieving equitable minority representation. On the other hand, there is a growing recognition that diversity is essential for organizations to innovate and succeed.

Diversity = Innovation

When I write a course syllabus, I include two components in addition to lecture topics, assignments, and grading policies. First, I pledge to observe the Honor Code, which has a long tradition at Stanford. Under the Honor Code, faculty members do not proctor exams. Second, I vow to “respect diversity.” As a professor, I pledge “my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and situations be well served by this course,” and I affirm that “the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit.” I emphasize diversity as an essential element that enhances students’ learning experience. Accordingly, I “present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity,” which includes “gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, religion, political affiliation, culture, and so on.” Faculty members are encouraged to include such language on diversity in their syllabi, although it is not a requirement. Nevertheless, this practice is becoming increasingly widespread among faculty members.

Major U.S. companies such as Google and Microsoft have appointed chief diversity officers (CDOs) and strive to attract employees of diverse races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and gender identities. Diversity tends to be based on inherent components (e.g., sex and race), but it can also be expanded through acquired components, such as studying abroad and gaining other life experiences. These companies seek various ways to improve diversity. They believe that diversity enhances productivity and allows the company to better respond to changes in the external environment. Melonie Parker, Google’s CDO, describes her mission as making “Google more reflective of the world around us.”[6] There is a firm conviction that creativity and innovation arise when individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences exchange new ideas and perspectives.

In diverse teams, individuals are able to consider and evaluate alternatives and novel points of view. If an organization consists only of people with similar educational backgrounds who think in similar ways, it is unlikely that innovative or unique ideas will ever emerge.
Gi-Wook Shin

“Diversity = Innovation” is not just an article of faith. In the United States, researchers have accumulated a considerable amount of empirical evidence in support of this maxim across a variety of disciplines. Scott E. Page, a professor of complex systems at the University of Michigan, describes in great detail in The Difference (2007) how diversity leads to innovation. According to Page, having a diverse team enables cognitive diversity, which is critical to problem solving. When faced with difficult tasks, cognitive diversity allows the team to perform more capably than the sum of its parts.

In “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter,” Katherine Phillips, the late professor of business management at Columbia University, stresses that diversity makes teams more effective at completing tasks. In diverse teams, individuals are able to consider and evaluate alternatives and novel points of view.[7] If an organization consists only of people with similar educational backgrounds who think in similar ways, it is unlikely that innovative or unique ideas will ever emerge.

At Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, or “the d.school,” which is well known in Korea, diversity is understood as “radical collaboration.” Individuals with different perspectives and experiences collaborate in the classroom and when completing assignments. For instance, a computer science major will work together with a student majoring in the humanities. A prominent example of this way of thought is on display at Stanford’s Institute of Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, where one co-director has a background in computer science, and the other in philosophy.

According to a 2007 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 91% of companies responded that “enhancing the ability of people from different backgrounds to work effectively together” was an “extremely important” outcome of effective diversity management.[8] Catalyst, widely known for its research on the role of women in the workplace, also reported that companies with more women in high-level management positions tend to have transparent management practices and become more profitable through the pursuit of creative business strategies. A 2018 analysis of 1,700 companies by the Boston Consulting Group found that companies with “above-average diversity on their management teams. . . reported innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity.”[9]

It is none other than Silicon Valley, the global leader in technological innovation, that best illustrates the relationship between diversity and innovation.

Some in Korea may respond that the United States is unique in its status as a nation of immigrants. Israel offers an illustrative counterexample. Although it has a strong national identity like Korea, it has relied on a diverse talent pool to build a “creative economy.”

Technology as “a Manifestation of a Culture”

“An iPhone is not a product. It’s a manifestation of a culture.”[10] This statement about the iPhone also perfectly encapsulates the ethos of Silicon Valley as a whole. In April 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan visited Stanford and hosted a discussion on technological innovation with the CEOs of major U.S. tech companies, including Apple, Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and Microsoft. I was also there and I noticed something fascinating about the discussion. While Prime Minister Abe focused on the technological aspects of innovation, the leaders of Silicon Valley all emphasized its cultural aspects. Without exception, they began from the premise that innovation was rooted in culture, not technology. At the core of that culture is cultural diversity.

It has already been over 20 years since I joined Stanford and became a resident of the Bay Area. Having grown up in Korea, where I was taught to be proud of the homogeneity and unity of the Korean people, what struck me most about living here is a way of thinking that places great value on cultural diversity. Simply put, Silicon Valley was not built only by white men. Talented individuals of diverse backgrounds came together, competing and cooperating in their endeavors as they created today’s technological landscape. Immigrants laid the foundations for many of the companies that were launched in Silicon Valley, including Intel, Yahoo, Tesla, Google, and Twitter. The cultural diversity that permeates this region can be felt not only through these companies, but also in its schools, shops, and restaurants.

When people of diverse backgrounds and experiences come together, they create original ideas and put forth new perspectives. In turn, this catalyzes technological innovation. This ethos is deeply ingrained in Silicon Valley’s business culture. One often hears that “Silicon Valley is 90% culture and 10% technology.” This is in exactly the same vein as the above quote about the iPhone as “a manifestation of a culture.”

Some in Korea may respond that the United States is unique in its status as a nation of immigrants. Israel offers an illustrative counterexample. Although it has a strong national identity like Korea, it has relied on a diverse talent pool to build a “creative economy.” It created an ecosystem to support entrepreneurship in the technology sector, thereby overcoming tremendous economic difficulties to become a “startup nation” that has attracted global attention. In this process, 850,000 immigrants who arrived after the collapse of the Soviet Union played an important role. Over 40% of these immigrants were professors, scientists, and engineers with ample research experience. Israel proactively incorporated these individuals into its economy and society. It is common to hear multiple languages spoken on the streets of Tel Aviv. The startup nation did not arise out of coincidence.

To be a “first mover” and not just a “fast follower,” having a heterogeneous workforce could prove to be consequential. Korea is the exact opposite. A social and corporate culture that values and enforces conformity surely cannot be a wellspring of creativity and innovation.
Gi-Wook Shin

In the era of industrialization, it was vital to have a workforce capable of making standardized products. Diversity could reduce efficiency. Ernest Gellner, a prominent scholar of nationalism, traced the origins of modern nationalism to the economic needs of industrialization. The mass production of standardized goods necessitated a homogeneous workforce, and the most effective way of creating such a workforce was to cultivate citizens who shared a common national identity. From this perspective, South Korea and Japan were able to achieve rapid economic development through industrialization because they were able to easily form a homogeneous workforce. A strong sense of ethnic homogeneity played a critical role in this process.

In the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, however, a country cannot become a leader if it has a homogeneous workforce. To be a “first mover” and not just a “fast follower,” having a heterogeneous workforce could prove to be consequential. Korea is the exact opposite. Everyone seeks to receive the same education and build the same résumé in a race to the same finish line. A social and corporate culture that values and enforces conformity surely cannot be a wellspring of creativity and innovation. Given such a culture, companies, organizations, and institutions will inevitably settle for drifting along, simply going through the motions. Korean society must find a new source of vitality. Enhancing diversity to stimulate innovation and change could be the answer.

Beyond Homogeneity and Assimilation

The most conspicuous examples in Korea of a lack of diversity, and the harmful consequences resulting from it, are the culture of Korean academia and the country’s policy toward immigrants.

According to a 2014 analysis, 84.1% of faculty at Seoul National University (SNU) consist of the school’s own alumni. The figures for Yonsei University and Korea University are 73.9% and 58.6%, respectively.[11] A report on hiring practices for full-time faculty members at SNU between 2012 and 2019 reveals that of 93 departments, 28 departments consist entirely of faculty who are SNU alumni. For another 40 departments, the proportion of SNU alumni exceeds 80%. Many Koreans assume that I received my PhD from Stanford, and they are genuinely surprised when I tell them otherwise. This applies to faculty at Stanford as a whole. There are only a handful of professors who have received their degrees on “The Farm.” When I applied for faculty positions, I followed prevailing norms in the United States by excluding the university that I had graduated from.

In this sense, the United States is the complete opposite of Korea. There is strong opposition to so-called academic inbreeding, and schools strictly limit the hiring of alumni. Unless there are special reasons to do so, alumni are typically not appointed as faculty members. If they are considered as candidates, alumni are subject to a more rigorous review during the hiring process. In most universities, the proportion of alumni among faculty does not exceed 20%. It is uncommon to see professors return to their alma mater. Those who do typically return after many years, having gained broad recognition in their field while teaching and researching at other schools. The kind of homogeneity and academic inbreeding that is common in Korea is unthinkable in the United States.

It is widely accepted in the United States that the harms of academic inbreeding far outweigh any potential benefits. There is even a study that finds that alumni have 15% lower research output than other faculty and are 40% less effective at communicating with their colleagues at other institutions.[12] There is now a critical discussion in Korea about the hiring of alumni as faculty, but it is unclear how much has changed in practice. It should be noted that many Korean academics obtain their PhD overseas before returning to their alma mater. Nevertheless, it is questionable just how much creative intellectual activity can take place in a department filled with fellow alumni. A friend who is not an alum of the school at which he teaches once told me that “if I attend, it’s a faculty meeting, and if I don’t, it’s an alumni gathering.”

Another example is the government’s policy of assimilation, which is carried out under the banner of “multiculturalism.” Starting in the 2000s, a significant number of migrant workers and female “marriage migrants” began to arrive from China, Southeast Asia, and South Asia as South Korea was faced with a plummeting birth rate, an aging population, and a shrinking labor force.[13] In response, the Roh Moo-Hyun administration (2003–08) adopted “multiculturalism” as a major policy initiative. It is remarkable that a country such as South Korea, which built its national identity on ethnic homogeneity, accepted the idea of multiculturalism. Unfortunately, however, the policy has been implemented in a way that departs from the true meaning of multiculturalism. Most government programs and policies are geared toward the assimilation of foreigners into Korean culture.

There are few, if any, efforts to improve the understanding of foreign cultures among Koreans. For instance, there are programs to teach the Korean language and Korean history to a marriage migrant from Vietnam. There are even classes that teach her how to make kimchi. On the contrary, insufficient attention is given to enabling her Korean husband and in-laws to understand and respect Vietnam’s history and culture.

Furthermore, Korea’s policy of multiculturalism predominantly focuses on marriage migrants and low-skilled migrant workers. There is a prevailing tendency to address migrants as a socially vulnerable group that needs to be protected. Migrants who receive “protection” and “benefits” from the government become part of an invisible hierarchy that places them below Korean citizens. This has become ingrained to an extent such that “multiculturalism” has become synonymous with “helping the poor” in the minds of many Koreans. Because such policies give rise to an implicit hierarchy between natives and migrants, they are often not well received by the migrant population. These policies can also instigate anti-migrant sentiment among the Korean public, which creates a conflict between Koreans and those belonging to multicultural families.

In a 2018 analysis, the Software Policy and Research Institute projected that Korea would face a deficit of 31,833 workers by 2022 in core sectors of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, and virtual/augmented reality.[14] This is why major Korean conglomerates, including Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motors, are making a concerted effort to attract foreign talent. From the perspective of foreign workers, however, Korea is not necessarily an appealing destination, given a socioeconomic environment that is still not receptive to diversity. INSEAD ranked Korea 27th out of 134 countries in its 2021 Global Talent Competitiveness Index. In terms of “tolerance of immigrants,” Korea ranked 65th.[15] This is deeply disappointing for a country that now has the 10th largest economy in the world.

Without changes to the socioeconomic environment that immigrants face, it will be nearly impossible for Korea to attract foreign talent. The Ministry of Justice recently announced that it will create a new government agency to oversee immigration issues.[16] However, these institutional measures will not bear fruit until there are efforts to improve public awareness about the importance of ethnic and cultural diversity and how this diversity can spur innovation.

For Korea to take a leap forward, it must demolish the walls of its exclusionary super-networks [...] Diversity should be understood not just as a means to achieve balanced representation, but even more so as an essential ingredient of innovation and success.
Gi-Wook Shin

Demolishing Korea’s “Super-Network”

As I noted in Superficial Korea (2017), Korea is a “super-networked” society. According to one analysis, there are at most 3.6 degrees of separation among Koreans. In a country of over 50 million people, it is possible to connect any two individuals by crossing three or four mutual acquaintances. This is precisely what it means to be super-networked. It is no surprise that Koreans rely so heavily on shared regional backgrounds, alumni connections, and family ties. The denser the connections, the more exclusive and insular each of these groups becomes. Put differently, the barrier to entry becomes insurmountable. As the bonds in the in-group become ever stronger based on shared experiences, hostility toward the out-group intensifies. It is difficult to expect these groups to change. A form of exclusive, group-based behavior has thus emerged in an extremely competitive, super-networked society.

For Korea to take a leap forward, it must demolish the walls of its exclusionary super-networks. In its place, Korea must build a new home that opens its doors to talented individuals with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. This requires Korea to look at diversity in a new way. Diversity should be understood not just as a means to achieve balanced representation, but even more so as an essential ingredient of innovation and success.

During the election campaign, President Yoon Suk-Yeol’s pledge to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family became a political football. Ongoing discussions about the role of this ministry should now move beyond the previous question of how to protect women. By enhancing gender diversity, the government could help transform Korean society by unleashing creativity and innovation. Debates and discussions about specific policies should focus on how to achieve this larger goal.

The Moon Jae-In administration failed to innovate because it relied on a super-network of former pro-democracy activists. President Yoon’s Cabinet appointments, which draw heavily from lawyers and former prosecutors, are raising concerns that this administration could repeat its predecessor’s mistakes by relying on a super-network of prosecutors. The Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Unification; Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport; and Ministry of the Interior and Safety are all led by lawyers who studied in the same university (Seoul National University) and department (Law) as the president. Moreover, the prime minister, presidential chief of staff, and minister of economy and finance (who also serves as the deputy prime minister for the economy) are all civil servants who built their careers in the Ministry of Finance.[17]

In response to criticisms about the lack of diversity among high-level appointments, the Presidential Office insisted that it chose the most qualified and experienced individuals. It may be that these individuals are indeed able to work effectively as a team and draw on their skills to quickly achieve significant results in government policy. However, will this be enough for Korea to innovate and forge a path to success in the rapidly changing environment of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? It would be wise to remember that embracing the female gaze enabled the success of the Korean Wave.

 


[1] For a more detailed discussion of this issue, see Gi-Wook Shin, “In Troubled Waters: South Korea’s Democracy in Crisis,” Shorenstein APARC, May 3, 2022. https://aparc.fsi.stanford.edu/news/troubled-waters-south-korea%E2%80%99s-democracy-crisis.
 

[2] A public research university established in 1946, Seoul National University is widely regarded as the most prestigious university in South Korea.
 

[3] Regional divides are a major fault line in South Korean politics. The rivalry between the Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces is particularly salient.
 

[5] Adam Liptak and Anemona Hartocollis, “Supreme Court Will Hear Challenge to Affirmative Action at Harvard and U.N.C.,” New York Times, January 24, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/24/us/politics/supreme-court-affirmative-action-harvard-unc.html.
 

[6] See “Melonie Parker, Chief Diversity Officer,” https://www.blog.google/perspectives/melonie-parker/.
 

[7] Katherine W. Phillips, “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter,” Scientific American, October 1, 2014. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/.
 

[8] Society for Human Resource Management, 2007 State of Workplace Diversity Management, February 2008. https://www.shrm.org/about-shrm/news-about-shrm/documents/the%20state%20of%20diversity%20managment%20surevey%20report.pdf.
 

[9] Rocío Lorenzo et al., “How Diverse Leadership Teams Boost Innovation,” Boston Consulting Group, January 23, 2018, https://www.bcg.com/en-us/publications/2018/how-diverse-leadership-teams-boost-innovation.
 

[10] Jay Greene, “Steve Jobs and the business of design,” CNET, October 6, 2011, https://www.cnet.com/tech/tech-industry/steve-jobs-and-the-business-of-design/.
 

[11] Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University are commonly regarded as the three most prestigious universities in Korea. They are often referred to as the “SKY” universities, an acronym based on the first letter of each school.
 

[12] Hugo Horta, Francisco M. Veloso, and Rócio Grediaga, “Navel Gazing: Academic Inbreeding and Scientific Productivity,” Management Science, 56, no. 3 (March 2010): 414-29.
 

[13] These “marriage migrant” women typically went to rural areas of South Korea, which saw a gender imbalance as many women moved to cities to find employment.
 

[14] Lee Dong-Hyun, Huh Jeong, and Kim Jeong-Min, “Labor Market Forecast of Promising SW Areas,” SPRi, April 23, 2018, https://www.spri.kr/posts/view/22049?code=issue_reports.
 

[15] The Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2021: Talent Competitiveness in Times of COVID (Fontainebleau, France: INSEAD, 2021), https://www.insead.edu/sites/default/files/assets/dept/fr/gtci/GTCI-2021-Report.pdf.
 

[16] See, for example, Lee Sung-Eun, “Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon has big immigration ideas,” Korea JoongAng Daily, May 30, 2022, https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/2022/05/30/national/socialAffairs/korea-immigration-justice-ministry/20220530172957101.html.
 

[17] This is the former title for the Ministry of Economy and Finance. In Korea, this group of civil servants is referred to as the “mofia,” combining the English acronym (MOF) with “mafia.”

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A social and corporate culture that values and enforces conformity surely cannot be a wellspring of creativity and innovation. Korean society must find a new source of vitality. Enhancing diversity to stimulate innovation and change could be the answer.

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As reports of leveled mosques, detention camps, and destroyed cultural and religious sites in China's Xinjiang province emerged in the mid-to-late 2010s, the world took notice of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) flagrant oppression of Uighur Muslims and other minorities. Under the Xi Jinping administration, the Xinjiang region in northwestern China has experienced what is perhaps the greatest period of cultural assimilation since the Cultural Revolution. This massive state repression represents a primary research focus for Dr. James Millward, Professor of Inter-societal History at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, who joined both APARC's China Program and the Stanford History Department as a visiting scholar for winter quarter 2022.

Millward's specialties include the Qing empire, the silk road, and historical and contemporary Xinjiang. In addition to his numerous academic publications on these topics, he follows and comments on current issues regarding Xinjiang, the Uyghurs and other Xinjiang indigenous peoples, PRC ethnicity policy, and Chinese politics more generally. We caught up with Millward to discuss his work and experience at Stanford this past winter quarter. Listen to the conversation: 


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Aggressive Assimilating Thrust

Millward emphasizes the importance of documenting the scope and scale of the crisis in Xinjiang. "What's happened in the last four or five years in Xinjiang is of great global importance and interest to people," he says, and although it is still early to write the history of this period of repression, "it's important at least to try and get an organized draft of it down and to try to begin to interpret rather than just narrate the litany of things going on: the camps, the digital surveillance, forced labor, birth depressions, and try and put it all into some kind of framework where we can understand it." 

China’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang is part of aggressive intolerance of cultural and political diversity that is emerging as a central feature of Xi Jinping’s tenure, explains Millward. The shift in the CCP's assimilationist policies constitutes a complete "reversal of what had been an earlier approach to diversity in China," which allowed for 56 different nationalities to have regional autonomy. His aim is to "point out a really aggressive assimilating thrust under the Xi Jinping regime [...] and then also to look more clearly at settler colonialism in Xinjiang."

To learn more about the historical context of current events in Xinjiang and how to understand them against contemporary Chinese politics, tune in to Millward's public lecture of February 2, 2022, “The Crisis in Xinjiang: What’s Happening Now and What Does It Mean?

In this talk, Millward explains how PRC assimilationist policies, if most extreme in Xinjiang, are related to the broader Zhonghua-izing campaign against religion and non-Mandarin language and perhaps even to intensified control over Hong Kong and efforts to intimidate Taiwan.

U.S.-China Cooperation Amid Strained Ties

The Xinjiang crisis has affected how the United States views China, bringing an unexpected unity to the usually-polarized American foreign policy arena. "The Xinjiang issue has contributed to the broad-spectrum feeling in the American political sphere that engagement with China has failed," notes Millward. The parallels between China's repression of minorities and some of the worst events in the 20th century in Europe "have brought together the political sides in America and rallied them around a much stronger anti-China stance," he says.

From Millward's perspective, however, it is not only possible but also necessary for the United States to act on Xinjiang and press China on its human rights record while cooperating with China on other issues. "This is the art of diplomacy, you have to compartmentalize and deal with different issues, particularly with two countries as large as the United States and China." In Millward's view, areas pertinent to U.S.-China collaboration are varied and transcend global challenges such as climate change or pandemics. Those are simplistic dichotomies," he says. "We have 300,000 Chinese students in our universities and we welcome them and learn a lot from them [...] We benefit from Chinese expertise in all sorts of ways."

Millward spent a productive winter quarter at APARC. Returning to Stanford as a visiting scholar provided him a unique opportunity to reconnect with his past on The Farm and survey all that has changed in the years since he completed his doctorate under the tutelage of the late Professor Harold Kahn. "The trailer park where I lived as a first-year graduate student is no more, and I couldn't even find the footprint of where it was."

Portrait of James Millward

James Millward

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This article first appeared in the online magazine American Purpose.  

On March 9, South Koreans head to the voting booths to elect their new president. Although conventional wisdom posits that foreign affairs have little effect on voting preferences, South Koreans have defied this prediction in the past—and now, they may once again. Indeed, the atmosphere in this year’s election recalls that of 2002, when anti-American sentiments swept the South Korean presidential election. This time, it may be anti-Chinese sentiments that make an impact.


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According to our survey of over one thousand South Koreans, conducted this past January, a large majority of respondents—78 percent—indicated that Republic of Korea (ROK)-China relations will be an important consideration when deciding which presidential candidate to vote for. Given that younger South Koreans are expected to be the deciding factor in this election, it is particularly significant that the figure rises to 82 percent for respondents in their twenties. Twenty years ago, anti-American sentiments tipped the vote in favor of Roh Moo-hyun, the liberal candidate, who pledged not to kowtow to the United States. This time, how will anti-Chinese sentiment play out in Seoul? Will it work in favor of the conservatives, who tend to be tougher on China and emphasize the U.S.-ROK alliance? And what does this mean for Washington?

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Black Markets and Militants: Informal Networks in the Middle East and Africa

Khalid Mustafa Medani joins ARD to discuss his recently released book, Black Markets and Militants Informal Networks in the Middle East and Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Understanding the political and socio-economic factors which give rise to youth recruitment into militant organizations is at the heart of grasping some of the most important issues that affect the contemporary Middle East and Africa. In this book, Medani explains why youth are attracted to militant organizations, examining the specific role economic globalization, in the form of outmigration and expatriate remittance inflows, plays in determining how and why militant activists emerge. The study challenges existing accounts that rely primarily on ideology to explain militant recruitment.

Based on extensive fieldwork, Medani offers an in-depth analysis of the impact of globalization, neoliberal reforms, and informal economic networks as a conduit for the rise and evolution of moderate and militant Islamist movements and as an avenue central to the often violent enterprise of state-building and state formation. In an original contribution to the study of Islamist and ethnic politics more broadly, he thereby shows the importance of understanding when and under what conditions religious rather than other forms of identity become politically salient in the context of changes in local conditions.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER 

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Khalid Medani
Dr. Khalid Mustafa Medani is currently associate professor of political science and Islamic Studies at McGill University, and he has also taught at Oberlin College and Stanford University. Dr. Medani received a B.A. in Development Studies from Brown University, an M.A. in Development Studies from the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the political economy of Islamic and Ethnic Politics in Africa and the Middle East.

Dr. Medani is the author of Black Markets and Militants: Informal Networks in the Middle East and Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2021) and he is presently completing another book manuscript on the causes and consequences of Sudan’s 2018 popular uprising and the prospects and obstacles for Democracy in that country. In addition, he has published extensively on civil conflict with a special focus on the armed conflicts in Sudan and Somalia. His work has appeared in Political Science and Politics (PS), the Journal of Democracy, the Journal of North African StudiesCurrent HistoryMiddle East ReportReview of African Political EconomyArab Studies Quarterly, and the UCLA Journal of Islamic Law.

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This event is co-sponsored by the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and the Center for African Studies at Stanford University.

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Khalid Mustafa Medani Associate Professor of Political Science and Islamic Studies McGill University
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Policies implemented by the CCP in Xinjiang since c. 2016 have become a central issue in PRC international relations, leading to international determinations that those policies constitute genocide; scrutiny of global supply chains for Xinjiang cotton, textiles and polysilicon; US sanctions on companies and individuals and Congressional inquiries directed at Airbnb and other multinationals operating in Xinjiang; and diplomatic boycotts of the Olympics. The assimilationist policies, if most extreme in Xinjiang, are related to the broader Zhonghua-izing campaign against religion and non-Mandarin language and perhaps even to intensified control over Hong Kong and efforts to intimidate Taiwan—an aggressive intolerance of cultural and political diversity that is emerging as a central feature of Xi Jinping’s tenure. This talk will review the Xinjiang crisis to date and suggest how we should understand these events and trends.



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Portrait of James Millward
James Millward is Professor of Inter-societal History at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, teaching Chinese, Central Asian and world history. He joins the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) as visiting scholar with the China Program for the 2022 winter quarter. He is also an affiliated professor in the Máster Oficial en Estudios de Asia Oriental at the University of Granada, Spain. His specialties include Qing empire; the silk road; Eurasian lutes and music in history; and historical and contemporary Xinjiang. He follows and comments on current issues regarding the Uyghurs and PRC ethnicity policy. Millward has served on the boards of the Association for Asian Studies (China and Inner Asia Council) and the Central Eurasian Studies Society, and was president of the Central Eurasian Studies Society in 2010. He edits the ''Silk Roads'' series for University of Chicago Press. His publications include The Silk Road: A Very Short Introduction (2013), Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang (2007), New Qing Imperial History: The Making of Inner Asian Empire at Qing Chengde (2004), and Beyond the Pass: Economy, Ethnicity and Empire in Qing Central Asia (1998). His articles and op-eds on contemporary China appear in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Review of Books and other media.  

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James Millward Visiting Scholar, APARC, Stanford University; Professor of Inter-societal History, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
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On November 15, 2021, the Stanford Center on China’s Economy and Institutions (SCCEI) launched its new impact initiative:  the SCCEI China Briefs.  The briefs translate data-driven social science research into accessible insights for those interested in China and U.S.-China relations.  Released twice a month, the briefs cover timely issues that inform policy and advance public understanding of China and its role on the global stage.

This initiative targets one of SCCEI’s primary objectives: to inform public debates on U.S.-China relations with empirically-driven social science research.

This initiative targets one of SCCEI’s primary objectives: to inform public debates on U.S.-China relations with empirically-driven social science research.

On Monday, SCCEI released its first three China Briefs spotlighting findings central to China’s economy, U.S.-China trade competition, and their implications for U.S.-China relations:   

In “Did ‘China Shock’ Cause Widespread Job Losses in the U.S.?” Stanford's own Nicholas Bloom and his co-authors find compelling evidence that import competition from China did not, in fact, cause aggregate employment loss in the U.S. – a finding that contradicts prevailing views. Read our brief for a fuller picture of how “China shock” impacted U.S. employment dynamics and how this might impact regional inequality and political polarization in the U.S.

Only a handful of countries have escaped the middle-income trap since 1960. In “Invisible China: Hundreds of Millions of Rural Unemployed May Slow China’s Growth,” SCCEI’s co-director Scott Rozelle finds that approximately 70% of China’s labor force – 500 million people – concentrated in rural areas do not have a high school education. Our SCCEI China Brief sheds light on why these statistics matter – not only for China, but for the rest of the world.

In “Rise of Robots in China,” SCCEI’s co-director Hongbin Li presents strong data revealing China’s global leadership in the use of industrial robots. What is driving this relentless growth of automation in China? What future trends and implications can we glean from China’s use and production of robots? Read our SCCEI China Brief to find out more.

Read the Briefs


 

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Shipping container ship docked.

 

 

 

Did "China Shock" Cause Widespread Job Losses in the U.S.?
Findings in this brief challenge prevailing views regarding net jobs lost in the U.S.
 


 

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Invisible China feature image

 

 

 

Invisible China: Hundreds of Millions of Rural Underemployed May Slow China's Growth
Education is the key for China to realize its goal of moving from a middle-income to high-income economy


 

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Robotic arm in a factory

 

 

 

Rise of the Robots in China
Data representative of China’s manufacturing sector reveals China’s global leadership in the use of industrial robots

 


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Findings in this brief challenge prevailing views regarding net jobs lost in the U.S.
 


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Education is the key for China to realize its goal of moving from a middle-income to high-income economy


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Data representative of China’s manufacturing sector reveals China’s global leadership in the use of industrial robots

 


Join our mailing list to receive SCCEI China Brief email announcements. The briefs are also posted on our SCCEI China Briefs homepage every other week. 

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The SCCEI China Briefs are short features that translate top-quality academic research into evidence-based insights for those interested in China and U.S.-China relations. Released twice a month, the briefs will cover timely issues that inform policy and advance the public understanding of China and its role on the global stage.

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