Friday, July 31, 2015

Job Opportunity: 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/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
* Due to a high volume of applications only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. No calls, please.

China’s “Northeast Phenomenon”

Here is my interpretation of China’s “dongbei xianxiang (northeast phenomenon).”  As a follow up to my previous post, Beijing is my favorite city in China, but the northeast is the most special.  I first studied Chinese in 2001 in Harbin, where the most standard Mandarin is spoken according to the language program I joined, and where I hoped to also deepen my understanding of my native Korean. 

While the changes in Beijing since then are immediately noticeable, things seem more or less the same up in the northeast.  More than ten years into China’s “Northeast Revitalization” plan, domestic debate has indeed centered on a new “northeast phenomenon” of economic stagnation after Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang ranked among the country’s slowest growing regions last year.  Although most people in Shenyang claim that the northeast development plan no longer exists, Xi Jinping was in Changchun and Shenyang this month to promote his own plans to re-revitalize the northeast. 

Northeast China bears the burdens of an “elder brother” that make it so special.  Named China’s “eldest son” and “old industrial base” from the socialist era, the northeast is first an “elder brother” to China’s other regions.  A consensus among northeast officials and businesses is that their economic problems are primarily structural, including the dominance of state-owned, heavy industry.  But this has been the northeast’s biggest excuse for the past three decades.  Most people especially outside the region see local conservatism as the primary source of the northeast’s stagnation.  Rather than policy constraints from Beijing, local governments are not willing to open up the economy.  Or as some northeasterners will admit, people are just lazy. 

Others will point to the northeast’s foreign neighbors.  Across the border from the northeast is China’s “little brother,” North Korea, who is too busy making nuclear weapons to cooperate.  Yet China’s northeast is one of the few places where North Korea and South Korea co-exist.  While the UNDP’s Tumen Development Programme in the 1990s marked one of the earliest official meetings between the two Koreas, North and South Korean businesses operate side by side in Xita, Shenyang’s Korea town.  But outside northeast China, even if local leaders wanted to open, there is no-one to open to. 

Perhaps for the above reasons, Beijing is just not interested in revitalizing the northeast anymore.  Xi Jinping seems preoccupied right now with promoting his “One Belt, One Road” elsewhere.  But the northeast is still stuck on the very problems that Hu Jintao sought to address in 2003, and remains a puzzling phenomenon worth studying.

In Xita, Shenyang
See-Won Byun, Ph.D. Political Science
Sigur Center 2015 Asian Field Research Fellow
Peking University, Beijing, and Liaoning University, Shenyang.

Seven Signs of Change in China Since 2001…Or At Least Beijing

I’m back in Beijing after spending two months in Shenyang researching the northeast part of my dissertation on the foreign economic strategies of China’s border regions.  Here are my first impressions on the changes over the past decade in China’s capital.  The last time I took the route between Beijing airport and Peking University was in 2003, when I left during the SARS scare.  There was no Olympics stadium, now a proud symbol of the past. 

First, more cars have replaced bicycles.  The only way I could identify my old apartment across campus was by the green bicycle stands.  But these are now covered by cars, mostly SUVs.  International students now drive scooters, or what they refer to as glorified bikes.  Rush hour traffic is still terrible, but instead of packed bicycles there are lines of people at the metro, where the number of metro lines has grown from 3 to 15.

Second, things are more expensive.  For a one hundred dollar bill, you now get 600 RMB instead of 800.  When I went to get my hair cut, they gave me a choice of 150, 200, 280, or 350 RMB.  I remembered the first time I cut my hair in China, when they asked, do you want the 8 or 4 RMB version?

Third, people approach each other with “nihao (hello)” and address women as “meinu (literally, beautiful woman).”  People only said nihao before in English when greeting foreigners.  Hello has now become a way of addressing each other.  I was flattered when I first heard “meinu” until I realized it’s just common expression.  Before it was either “xiaojie (miss)” or “xiao meimei (little sister).”  

Fourth, people stand in line.  You don’t see a triangle of crowds at counters anymore.  Now it’s more or less a straight line.  The good thing is there is less chaos; the bad thing is you can’t really cut in line when desperate.  

Fifth, people are obsessed with We Chat.  It’s amazing how widely We Chat is used in a country where the internet is so restricted, but perhaps not so surprising given the limited options.  I am hardly connected to social media outside of China, but had to get We Chat here to communicate with my landlord. 

Sixth, there are more foreigners.  Foreigners have increased not only in number but also diversity.  In the past you could tell where a classmate was from by the color of his/her dictionary: red for American, purple for Korean, orange for Japanese, blue for Russian.  It’s now harder to tell, because there are so many of them and because most are talking to each other in broken English rather than broken Chinese.

But these changes are less apparent a five-hour train ride away in Shenyang, the biggest city in China’s northeast.  You not only see bikes but the occasional donkey cart, and can have a full meal for less than 10 RMB.  People will look at you strangely if you say nihao, and it’s fine to cut in line.  Internet access is more limited.  Most foreigners are African exchange students, missionaries, or reportedly spies. 

But one obvious change even in the northeast is that college students don’t want to go to Hong Kong anymore after they graduate.  In 2001, most of my Chinese classmates in Harbin wanted to move to Hong Kong or somewhere south to work.  Most students now plan to move on to graduate school to study, or feel disenfranchised to see that the opportunities to get rich at home have already been taken. 

Passing the Forbidden City

See-Won Byun, Ph.D. Political Science
Sigur Center Summer 2015 Asian Field Research Fellow
Beijing and Shenyang, China

Overview of Cambodia

Hello Everyone,

My name is Ron Leonhardt, and I am a History PhD student currently in Cambodia on a Sigur Center Language Grant studying Khmer. This is my first blog post, so I thought I would start by providing some information on the contemporary issues that contribute to Cambodia’s status as one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world. I will also relate these issues to my research and how these issues impact language programs in Cambodia.

This is now my third summer in Cambodia, and I spend most of my time in the capital, Phnom Penh. My first summer in Cambodia happened to coincide with Cambodia’s elections for seats in the National Assembly and for the next Prime Minister of Cambodia. Hun Sen, the current Prime Minister, has been in power for over twenty-five years. The director of my language program at that time had a physical handicap that prevented her from walking. Since Cambodia does not have handicap-accessible buildings, she had not voted in the previous several elections. However, this election, she received a letter from the government “encouraging” her to vote. Her failure to vote could result in her losing her ability to operate a language school in Cambodia. On the day of elections, another student and myself had to carry her up to the third story of an elementary school where the polling booth was located so she could vote. Voter fraud was also rampant, and in some Cambodian provinces there were more votes than people. Unsurprisingly, Hun Sen was reelected as Prime Minister.

However, social media was used extensively during the 2013 elections—especially among younger generations expressing their support for the opposition candidate, Sam Rainsy. Coincidentally, since the last election, the Cambodian government has begun the process of enacting a series of laws that would severely restrict Cambodian civil society and those critical of the Government’s numerous abuses of power. Any “insult” on social media may soon result in judicial prosecution and any NGO working in Cambodia may soon be forced to approve their activities through the government. Sex-trafficking (especially among girls and boys under the age of fifteen), illegal logging, poor access to safe medical care, drug abuse and drug trafficking (especially heroin, MDMA, and methamphetamines) remain serious problems not often discussed in relation to the problems plaguing Cambodia. These problems have made treatable diseases more deadly and diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C have continued to spread.

My research focuses on the Cold War history of the Khmer Krom, an ethnic minority group living in both Cambodia and the lower portion of Vietnam. Often denied citizenship in both Vietnam and Cambodia, the Khmer Krom living around Phnom Penh often do not receive access to health care and are forced to live outside of Phnom Penh in an area that the government has, essentially, designated for “undesirables” to live. Government abuses against ethnic minorities in Cambodia has been a serious problem for years, which makes researching the history of the Khmer Krom and interviewing Khmer Krom a difficult task at times. Language schools in Cambodia are not allowed to teach or discuss vocabulary or lessons related to ethnic minorities, if the school did, they could lose their license and their school. I have included several articles that go into more detail regarding some of these issues:

Related to sex-trafficking in Cambodia:

Unsafe medical practices/HIV outbreaks:

New NGO Law:

Hun Sen owes money from betting on the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight (John Oliver Clip):

Freedom House Index (Cambodia is purple, meaning “not free”):

In my next blog posting, I will talk more about my language program and what else I’m doing to improve my language skills.

Ron Leonhardt, 2nd Year PhD Student in History
Sigur Center 2015 Khmer Language Fellow,
Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Monday, July 27, 2015

Abe Fellowship

The next deadline is September 1, 2015.

The Abe Fellowship is designed to encourage international multidisciplinary research on topics of pressing global concern. The Abe Fellowship Program seeks to foster the development of a new generation of researchers who are interested in policy-relevant topics of long-range importance and who are willing to become key members of a bilateral and global research network built around such topics.

Fellowship Terms

Terms of the fellowship are flexible and are designed to meet the needs of Japanese and American researchers at different stages in their careers.

The program provides Abe Fellows with a minimum of 3 and maximum of 12 months of full-time support over a 24-month period.

Part-time residence abroad in the United States or Japan is required.

Research Agenda

Please note our new research agenda for 2015. Applicants are invited to submit proposals for research in the social sciences and related fields relevant to any of the following four themes:

  • Threats to Personal, Societal, and International Security
  • Social, Scientific, and Cultural Trends and Transformations
  • Growth and Sustainable Development
  • Governance, Empowerment, and Participation

Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States or Japan. (Nationals of other countries MUST demonstrate a serious, long-term affiliation with research communities in the United States or Japan.) Applicants must hold a PhD or the terminal degree in their field, or equivalent professional experience at the time of application.

Find out more and apply HERE.

Language Specialist Position with United States Forces Korea (USFK)

This position is located at United States Forces Korea (USFK), Combined Forces Command (CFC), United Nations Command (UNC) UCJ-5. The incumbent will serve as principal Korean-English, English-Korean interpreter/translator for United States Forces Korea (USFK), Combined Forces Command (CFC), United Nations Command (UNC) UCJ-5. Responsible for accurate and rapid translations of written communications from or into English, Korean characters (Hangul), mixed Korean and Chinese characters (Hanmun), or phonetics prior to and during meetings. Must be capable of providing oral, nearly simultaneous interpretation.  

If an applicant is hired from the United States, relocation and other benefits are available.

Interested applicants can see the whole position description and apply at

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fulong 福隆 and Jiufen 九份

Hi everybody! I’m about halfway through with my time in Taiwan, which feels crazy and makes me unbelievably sad. I still feel like there is so much more to see here and really still so much left to learn. I wanna spend this blog talking about some trips I took to Fulong 福隆 and Jiufen 九份

I've seen a lot of things in Taiwan but these two trips have truly meant the most to me.  I went to both of these places over one weekend after having a pretty bad week.  I was reaching my month and a half point in Taiwan and was feeling a bit off. All of the study abroad advisors say that is when the initial excitement of being in a new place wears off and you begin feeling some of the negative parts of studying abroad. Some people feel homesick or lonely.  I've never really been a homesick person, but the week before, one of my very first (and best) friends in Taiwan left to go to China for the rest of summer.  So I guess I was feeling a bit unsettled. Also, I didn't talk about this in the last blog because I was so excited about Dragon Boating, but I didn't expect living alone to be so isolating. That seems like an obvious thing to predict, but I've been living in a cramped dorm for the past two years! Now I'm in an apartment building where I don't really know any of my neighbors. This is my first time living alone, in a place where I don't know a lot of people and don't speak the language fluently. But through some introspection and tea drinking, I've really been able to transition and definitely feel more comfortable with not just living alone but with myself.  Check one off the "Study Abroad Must-Have Lessons" checklist! 

I mark these trips as a turning point for my summer in Taiwan. Mostly in terms of starting to get out of my comfort zone and going out and making things happen, be it practicing Mandarin with a stranger or just being honest about what means most to me. That week I actually met a new classmate from Switzerland and we went on these trips together. 

After missing our first train by mere seconds, my classmate (Michele) and I had to wait an hour in Taipei Main Station for the next one. Taipei Main has an obscene amount of tiny stores and surprisingly good restaurants so we didn’t suffer much. Once safely aboard our train headed towards Fulong, being the good student that I am, I decided to take out some of my notebooks and practice writing characters. The train was crowded that Friday so a lot people were standing in the aisle, teetering between the handrails above my friend’s and my heads. Michele and I were hung up over the correct pronunciation of ‘teapot.’ 

“Yeah wait I don’t think that's the right word. How do you say ‘teapot’?” 
!” a voice from above us said. We looked up into the face of a smiling older gentleman. “It’s ‘cha hu. 们都会写!?” 

We introduced ourselves and he was really impressed with how intensely we were studying. Turns out a lot of Taiwanese people are genuinely impressed if you have even a small writing and reading ability. We told him we were going to Fulong and he gave us a bunch of tips on how to rent bicycles there. He talked to us for the rest of our journey about studying and eventually began teaching us some new characters.  It was a typical example of how nice people are in Taiwan.  Every person I practice Mandarin with in Taiwan teaches me something. Mostly correct pronunciations but sometimes (like on the train to Fulong) they've even taught me the characters for 'butterfly'. 

That's me! 

So I know how to ride a bike, but being on them makes me nervous.  I think I fell too many times as a kid. But I didn't tell my friend about my fear of riding bicycles until we had already rented them.. the old saying “_____is like riding a bike!” really held true in my situation.  I got off to a teetering start, possibly made one tandem bike go off the path, but after my nervous laughter subsided I was able to get on the road and actually bike. It was a really tiny feat but I was embarrassingly proud of myself. I had a huge smile for the rest of the day. ALSO we rented bicycles for the whole day all for less than $3 USD and nothing makes me happier than a deal.               


We stuck to a bike path which took us through a tunnel, around the eastern coast and through tiny fishing villages. It was gorgeous and I wish I took more pictures, but there are only so many times you can start and stop on a bike.  What we did stop for was a giant bush filled with dozens of butterflies.  The man on the train's lesson! He also told us that Taiwan is known as the kingdom of butterflies which I really didn't believe until I saw them for myself. 


Turtle Island in the distance
It was a great day not only because I rode a bike, but because we met so many great people like that man on the train who genuinely wanted to help us.  It's not everywhere you go that people are that friendly, but in Taiwan it's really been the norm and this trip really cemented that in my mind. Also the feeling of riding a bike along a coastline is incredible and everyone should try it. Perfect ratio of salty air and beautiful views. 

The next day (Saturday) Michele and I decided to head out to Jiufen 九份. I had been wanting to go there for a really long time.  The city in the movie “Spirited Away” was inspired by Jiufen’s brightly lit street lamps and since I’m a huge Miyazaki fan, going there was a must.  They have a saying in Jiufen, "越夜越漂亮" which means "the darker it gets, the more beautiful it gets." It's so true.  I was not disappointed by the night view or 夜景 in Jiufen and could absolutely see how it inspires. My overall impression of Jiufen is a bit hard to describe.  I want to describe Jiufen as sleepy, as it often drizzles and there are no large streets filled with honking cars or motorcycles. But Jiufen has a quiet, buzzing energy that lets you know it's awake.  

Michele and I on the steps

At the 茶馆 

Jiufen began as a mining town and as such, is literally on the side of a mountain.  The town is filled with staircases making an afternoon stroll feel more like a hike.   Jiufen is mostly known for its nighttime lights, but few people know that the first movie theater in Taiwan was built there.  We didn't get a chance to go inside but I quickly snapped a pic. The town is full of tiny souvenir shops, restaurants, and to my friend's delight: teahouses. Michele is really into tea making, tea buying, tea drinking, really anything tea related. So while in Jiufen, we had to stop and 泡茶.

First movie theater in Taiwan
Staircase "Streets"


View from 茶馆

The 茶管 we went to was gorgeous.  We were able to sit outside on the balcony and had a breathtaking view of the ocean and mountainside.  We sat with three other people and spent the afternoon sipping tea and chatting about anything we could think of. I’m pretty sure that’s why teahouses were invented because it was perfect. Right before the sunset, it began to drizzle a little. Michele and I were a little bummed at first, thinking we wouldn't be able to explore as much, but we were reassured by our company that rain in Jiufen was normal.  One friend described rainfall in Jiufen as “a special feeling.” Even he didn't have a concrete way to describe Jiufen. But as I gazed out at the ocean view and sipped some tea, I knew what he meant.