Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Spring 2016 Internship: Congressional-Executive Commission on China

Congressional-Executive Commission on China
Deadline: November 1, 2015

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China ( is offering paid internships to qualified undergraduates, graduate students, or recent graduates this coming spring in Washington, D.C. Interns must be U.S. citizens. The application deadline is November 1, 2015 for the Spring 2016 internship that runs from January 2016 to May 2016. Spring internships are part-time; interns are expected to work from 15 to 20 hours per week. See application instructions below.

The CECC is committed to interns’ professional development. CECC internships provide significant educational and professional experience for undergraduates, graduate students, or recent graduates with a background in Chinese politics, law, and society, and strong Chinese language skills.
Interns work closely with the Commission and its staff on the full array of issues concerning human rights, the rule of law, and governance in China (including criminal justice, institutions of democratic governance, environmental issues, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, ethnic minority rights, women’s rights, etc.).

Interns perform important research support tasks (often in Chinese), attend seminars, meet Members of Congress and experts from the United States and abroad, and draft Commission analyses. Click here for CECC analysis of recent developments in the rule of law and human rights in China. Interns may also perform research for the Commission’s Political Prisoner Database, which has been accessible by the public since its launch in November 2004 (click here to begin a search).
Spring 2016 interns will be paid $10/hour. Those unable to apply for Spring 2016 internships may apply for the Summer (June-August) or the Fall (September-December) internships. Further details are available on the Commission’s Web site at

  • Interns must be U.S. citizens.
  • Interns should have completed at least some China-related coursework. It is also desirable that they have some background in one or more of the specific human rights and rule of law issues in the CECC legislative mandate.
  • Interns should be able to read Chinese well enough to assist with research in newspapers, journals, and on Web sites. More advanced Chinese language capability would be a plus. The successful candidate for an internship often will have lived or studied in mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan.
  • Our interns are generally undergraduates, graduate students, or recent graduates, but others are also welcome to apply.
Application Instructions for Spring 2016:

Interested applicants should send a cover letter, resume, and the names and contact information of two references, to the CECC via e-mail to Judy Wright, Director of Administration at by November 1, 2015. Applications must be received by our office no later than 11:59 P.M. Eastern Time on November 1. Please discuss in your cover letter how your professional goals, interests, and background relate to the Commission’s legislative mandate regarding human rights and the rule of law in China. No phone calls please.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Five pieces of advice for field researchers

Almost right after my arrival in Seoul, I excitedly called the Pan-National Committee for Truth Concerning Civilian Massacres Before and After the Korean War (hereafter the Pan-National Committee), an umbrella organization that includes most local associations of families of victims. Even though I had scheduled appointments with multiple experts related to my dissertation topic, civilian victimization during the Korean War, I still wanted to expand my network in Korea, and the committee seemed to be an ideal place to start my data collection. I expected to receive a warm welcome from the committee and endless support in collecting materials. However, things were slightly different from my expectations.

When I called the committee for the first time, I met with a cautious reaction. It took quite a while until this old gentleman picked up the phone (later, he turned out to be the president of the committee, Pastor Lim Tae-hwan). I briefly introduced myself and my dissertation project and asked him if I could schedule an appointment to visit the committee. He sighed. Yes, he sighed. He then asked me about my personal details including whether or not I am a South Korean citizen, the undergraduate and master programs from which I had graduated, the name of my master thesis advisor, and so forth. Being somewhat annoyed, I asked him why he asked so many personal questions, but he said he had to know me before letting me visit the committee. After 10 minutes on the phone, I was finally able to schedule a visit.

Pastor Lim was much friendlier in person than on the phone. He acknowledged the significance of my research and gave me some booklets published by the committee. He also gave me names of several researchers who are still investigating violence during the Korean War. However, it seemed that this was all he could do to help me. Even though he was the president of the Pan-National Committee, the organization did not seem to have the economic and human resources to support an independent researcher.

The moment I entered the committee’s office, I could see how bad its financial condition was. The office was old and small. There was no working staff, except for Pastor Lim, and all of the computers looked outdated. There were no beverages in the refrigerator, so he served me one of the soft drinks that I had brought there as a gift. Shortly after we started talking, the pastor’s son arrived. He did not tell me the reason why he asked his son to join us, but it is likely his son was there as a body guard. It might be unsafe for an elderly man to meet a complete stranger who is interested in a sensitive topic. 

It also seemed that the alliance between victims, advocacy groups and scholarship, which bolstered the activities of the Pan-National Committee, had broken down. I heard that there had been conflicts of interest between the government-established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including scholars and members of advocacy groups who participated in TRC as investigators, and victims and their families. While the TRC had to investigate cases of violence with limited time (5 years) and resources, the demands from victims’ associations were extensive. There were several local associations of families of victims, scholars, or NGOs  that were working on human rights violation cases during the Korean War, but there was no actively working pan-national group. 

Situations outside the committee were not much different. I visited many researchers who published books and articles on atrocities that occurred during the Korean War, but many of them had moved towards a different research agenda. The Korean Genocide Research Association, which had served as a regular avenue for academic discussion on past violence for years, never published its journal after 2010. The only places that could provide me with fresh materials were a few local institutes that received especially strong support from local citizens such as Yeosu Community Research Institute and the Geumjung Cave Incident Peace Foundation. 

Overall, I was able to collect a significant amount of primary and secondary data, despite the unexpected situation in South Korea. After realizing that there was not much ongoing investigation on civilian victimization cases during the Korean War, I turned my focus to published data. There was considerable knowledge of the Korean War and civilian victimization that had been accumulated in the 2000s and that had not received attention from international scholarship. After getting through the long and boring process of photocopying and scanning at many libraries and archives, I collected more than 200GB of scanned documents, which is a good amount of information to use in my dissertation project.

However, it is still surprising that there was such a gap between me at the home institution and in the field, despite my personal advantages. I didn’t have language or cultural barriers. In addition, I took advantage of scholarly networks in South Korea as a graduate of a university in Seoul when preparing for the fieldwork. Moreover, I am living an era of Internet. I searched through websites and electronic journals in Korea, but still could not fully understand that the number of scholarly and non-scholarly investigation pieces on the related topics was decreasing. This suggests how hard it is to conduct fieldwork, even in this globalized age.

Based on my experience in Korea, my advice for future field researchers is as follows. First, secure as large a budget possible and allow for schedule flexibility for the duration of the stay, including a potential extension of the stay. Even for me, who is a native speaker of Korean and had some networks with local scholars, it was quite difficult to conduct the fieldwork as planned. Second, assume a slightly worse situation than situation you envision at your home institution. Local experts you have talked to via email and phone are less likely to provide you with up-to-date information about the field. Even if they genuinely like your project, you are an “interesting stranger” at best. Who would say to you, a stranger, that investigation in the field that you are interested in is not going very well? You are more likely to hear diplomatically positive responses from local people unless you meet them in person.

Third, don’t always go for well-known people. Sometimes in the field, people you didn’t know show up and help you. Before going to Korea, I had only contacted several “big shot” scholars in related fields. However, some of them turned out to be not very helpful. It would be lucky if famous scholars were willing to help you, but more often than not, they are busy. I personally believe that local doctoral students are the best potential helpers in creating a win-win relationship with you. Doctoral students are likely to have both extensive knowledge on your topic and incentive to work with you since they may consider you, a graduate student from an English-speaking country, as a potential coauthor in future international scholarship. 

Finally, not closely related to the main theme of this blog post, but as useful technical advice, bring a scanner or buy one in the field, especially when you are collecting primary documents. Papers are heavy. The only possible way to collect a large amount of data is to produce electronic copies of it, whether  from primary or secondary sources. Even in an advanced country like the US, scanners are not as ubiquitous as photocopiers. Unless you have your own scanner in your own room, you will need to carry a bunch of photocopied materials to a scanning station and spend lots of money every day. Small and effective scanners such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap series might still be inconvenient to carry, but they will definitely save you a considerable amount of time and money.

Seung Joon Paik
Ph.D. Political Science 2015
Sigur Center 2015 Field Research Fellow
Seoul, South Korea

Friday, October 2, 2015

You will never know until you get there.

Hi, everyone. My name is Seung Joon, and I’m a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science. This summer, I visited South Korea to collect data for my doctoral dissertation with the financial support of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies. Overall, I was fortunate to collect an extraordinary number of primary and secondary materials from diverse sources including archives, research institutes, individual scholars, and public and private libraries. However, the situation I encountered in South Korea was quite different from the one I had envisioned in my initial plan. The information that I relied on when I was planning the fieldwork at GW turned out to be outdated, and I needed to revise my data-collection plan constantly as I learned more about the current situation in the field. In this and the following blog posts, I will discuss this gap between the home institution and the field, and I will attempt to suggest several pieces of advice to address this problem.

My doctoral research focuses empirically on civilian massacre cases that were perpetrated during the Korean War. More than 500 events of civilian massacre were perpetrated by the South and North Korean governments and sometimes by local militias during the Korean War. Some civilians were killed because of their ideologies; others were targeted based on false accusations; and still others were randomly selected victims. Most of them were killed without trials. In South Korea, families of victims formed associations and appealed to the government that they were unreasonably victimized after President Syngman Rhee resigned. The Fourth National Assembly of South Korea investigated massacres during the war, but the activities of associations of victims’ families were branded as “commies’ family” and repressed by the South Korean government after the May 16 coup and Park Chung-hee’s rise to power. After that, families of the victims had to remain silent until the June 29 Declaration, when the authoritarian Fifth Republic of Korea agreed to demands for democratization by South Korean citizens. 

As South Korea became democratized, families of victims started to speak up. Despite continuing government surveillance, they reorganized associations and advanced their causes by excavating the remains of victims, holding annual memorial services, conducting interviews with victims who had survived and their families, collecting physical evidence, and circulating petitions. Human rights NGOs and advocacy groups used their networks to support such efforts. Liberal scholars such as Dong-chun Kim also responded to the victims’ causes by publishing books and articles on past human rights violations. Journalists made a critical contribution by spreading information about the cause to the general public. A documentary series by MBC, Now We Discuss, covered numerous sensitive issues including the Jeju Uprising, the Bodo League Massacre, the Geochang massacre, and the No Gun Ri Incident. Thanks to the efforts of diverse groups, the South Korean government launched multiple government commissions that investigated past human rights violations. 

Indeed, the 2000s saw a renaissance of investigations into past human rights violations. In 2000, the Pan-National Committee for Truth Concerning Civilian Massacres Before and After the Korean War (hereafter, the Pan-National Committee) was established as an umbrella organization that includes most of the associations of families of victims. Experienced human rights activists joined the committee as members and advisors, and academics provided a scholarly foundation. A group of scholars organized the Korean Genocide Research Association, which discussed various aspects of human rights violations from Korean and foreign cases in its regular workshops and in its biannual academic journal, the Korean Journal of Genocide Studies. Multiple books about South Korea’s dark history have been published annually. In addition, the government has put considerable effort into investigating past atrocities. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Korea (the TRC), which was the most extensive organization among similar government commissions, had more than 200 resident staff members and a large annual budget. These were what I remembered about the truth-finding efforts in South Korea. I joined the political science doctoral program at GW in 2010 and did not have a chance to get an update on the situation in Korea. 

When I was planning fieldwork at GW, I naturally assumed a brighter situation in Korea based on what I remembered. Even though the TRC investigation had completed its work in 2010, I believed that there would be continuing efforts in regard to past atrocities since the South Korean society must have learned a lot about unresolved issues of human rights violation during the 2000s. I hoped that there would be numerous families of victims as well as journalists, scholars, and human rights advocacy groups that still worked on under-investigated cases of violence, and that I would be able to obtain a vast amount of information about newly discovered cases from them. 

Of course, I did not only assume this. I talked to several prominent scholars of civilian massacres and the Korean War by email or by phone to schedule appointments. Most of them displayed a deep interest in my project and acknowledged the significance of this research. Several even offered to help me with my data collection. Everything sounded all right; nothing seemed amiss. Thus, there seemed to be no reason to alter my optimistic expectations concerning my fieldwork in South Korea. With much hope, I flew to Korea on May 11.

Seung Joon Paik
Ph.D. Political Science 2015
Sigur Center 2015 Field Research Fellow
Seoul, South Korea

Friday, September 25, 2015

Chinese Tea Time Cancelled Today

For Chinese language learners and speakers: Chinese Tea Time is cancelled for today (9/25). 

It will resume again next week, starting on October 2nd, continuing with its regular weekly schedule. 

We look forward to seeing everyone next week for Chinese Tea Time! 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Chinese Tea Time Moved to Fridays

Chinese tea times have been moved to Fridays. Tea times will still take place from 4:00pm - 5:00pm in the Sigur Center conference room. You may view and download the full schedule below:

9/18, 9/25, 10/02, 10/09, 10/16, 10/23, 10/30, 11/06, 11/13, 11/20, 12/04, 12/11

Download the Fall 2015 Tea Time Calendar here.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Job Opening: Program Assistant with the U.S.-Japan-South Korea Legislative Exchange Program (LEP)

The U.S.-Japan-South Korea Legislative Exchange Program (LEP/TLEP) is conducting a search for a new program assistant. The LEP/TLEP is co-directed by Professor Henry R. Nau and Professor Mike Mochizuki and brings together Members of the US Congress, Japanese Diet, and South Korean National Assembly twice a year to discuss issues among the three countries.

The program assistant serves as chief administrative assistant to Professor Nau. Primary responsibilities include inviting and organizing Members of Congress to travel to Tokyo/Seoul for a meeting, usually in December or January. The assistant travels to Tokyo/Seoul with the director for approximately 3-4 days. 

Since the meetings in Tokyo/Seoul are held toward the end of the semester, this position requires a graduate student who has very strong organizational and time management skills necessary to handle all of the details of event coordination while completing his/her own semester-end course requirements. Other skills needed include a strong sense of responsibility, maturity, courtesy, and reliability. English fluency is essential. Preference will be given to those who have a strong interest in US-Japan or US-South Korean relations or are proficient in Japanese or Korean. Professional references are welcomed.

The position is part-time, averaging 15 hrs/week at $15/hour.  The position is for the Fall semester, with the possibility of working into the Spring semester 2016, depending on the conference schedule.  Work time varies from approximately 8-10 hrs/wk (preferably spread over at least 3 working days) during the first two thirds of each semester to 25-30 hours during the last third of the semester (sometimes more if needed, including weekends).

Please contact the current program assistant, Andrea Powell (, with any questions or for additional information.  Send a resume and cover letter to, cc’d to  

Deadline for submission is September 18th, 2015 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Job Openings: Sigur Center Staff Assistant (Part-Time, Federal Work Study Award Required)

Position Description:

The Staff Assistant position is located in the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs. This position is primarily responsible for staffing the center's front desk which encompasses answering the main phone line, greeting visitors, and processing mail. Other administrative duties and special projects as assigned, such as creating spreadsheets and reports, data entry, editing, etc. as well as supporting Sigur Center events. The Staff Assistant also plays a central role in managing the Sigur Center's social enterprise -- our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr accounts. This is a great opportunity for someone interested in Asian Studies and International Affairs to work closely with Asian Studies faculty, staff, and students as well as visiting scholars from Asia.

Approximate Hours Per Week: 10

Hourly Wage: $10.50/hour


* Interest in/knowledge of International Affairs and Asia
* Some knowledge of an Asian foreign language
* Experience living, working, or studying in Asia
* Strong customer service and interpersonal skills
* Administrative experience
* Must possess a Federal Work Study Award for the 2015-2016 academic year

Application Procedures:

* Apply via GWork to position number 824677 ASAP
* Include the amount of your FWS award in your cover letter
* Specify the dates/times you are available to work in your cover letter
* Email with any questions.