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SSK Research Project on East Asian Cities

The SSK Research Project on East Asian Cities examines cities in the region within the framework of Cold War developmental urbanization and, ultimately, seeks to develop a new epistemology for urban research. To explain the challenges East Asian cities confront today, the project looks first at how urbanization in the region was affected by geopolitical and economic conditions of the Cold War since the 1950s and developmental state projects pursued by states across East Asia from the 1950s to the 1980s. Second, it analyzes the transformation of urbanization processes in the region in the contexts of post-Cold War geopolitical and economic conditions since the 1990s, neoliberal globalization, and legacies of developmental state projects.

Research Topics

In 2015 and 2016, the SSK Research Project on East Asian Cities analyzed the situation and issues in the developmental urbanization of South and North Korea, Japan, China, and Taiwan, focusing on 1) compressed urbanization, 2) risks, and 3) exception space. The team examining compressed urbanization conducted empirical research on the urbanization of major cities in Korea through the concepts of “making Gangnam” and “following Gangnam.” Another team adopted the concept of riskscape, which emphasizes the socio-spatial dimensions of risk-related interests, perceptions, and practices, to investigate the risks that emerged as a result of developmental urbanization in East Asia. In particular, the team looked into the process of risk production in regards to the production, consumption, and management of nuclear energy in Korea, Japan, China, and Taiwan, from the socio-spatial perspective. The exception space team examined special economic zones of Korea, Japan, China, and Taiwan. It revealed that despite the differences by period—developmental, neo-liberal, and systemtransition—and country, the production of such exception spaces is a common spatial strategy of East Asian states.

Major Research Outcomes

The compressed urbanization team published a special issue of the Journal of Korean Association of Regional Geographers on the central theme of its research, “Making and Following Gangnam.” In August, the team invited Prof. Jinn-yuh Hsu of Nat.l Taiwan Univ. and in November, it hosted a colloquium with Korean researchers of Gangnam. The team also continued its research on gentrification, which it started in 2015, and organized related events. The book Planetary Gentrification (Polity, 2016) by one of the team members, Prof. Hyunbang Shin of the London School of Economics and Political Science, was published and a National Assembly forum on improving the legal system to prevent gentrification was successfully held in August as part of the Urban Policy Forum, the Project’s representative activity. In search for an alternative discourse on gentrification, the project hosted an academic conference on urban commons during the summer vacation period.

The riskscape team consistently produces research outcomes such as publishing a theoretical article conceptualizing riskscape in the East Asian context in the Journal of the Korean Geographical Society and planning a special issue composed of case-studies on nuclear energy policies and related concerns in Korea and China for the Journal of the Korean Association for Environmental Sociology to come out in the first half of 2017. An article co-authored by the team’s members Prof. Sanghun Lee (Hanshin Univ.) and Dr. Jin-Tae Hwang (SNUAC) was selected for publication by the international journal Erdkunde in its special issue on riskscape. The Urban Policy Forum conducted in May under the topic of conversion and decentralization of energy sources was devoted to looking for alternative policies on nuclear energy.

The exception space team published a special issue of Space and Environment with four articles examining special economic zones in South and North Korea, Japan, and China and in March hosted a colloquium under the topic of “Formation and Historical Geography of Territorial Spaces of Exception in East Asia.” Prof. Jinn-yuh Hsu of Nat’l Taiwan Univ., who spent one year at SNUAC as a researcher and visiting professor, published an article on the space of exception in Taiwan in a Korean journal and gave several research presentations at academic events. Furthermore, a comparative study on the formation of industrial complexes in Korea and Taiwan, conducted by Prof. Hsu in collaboration with two other Project researchers, Jim Glassman (Univ. of British Columbia) and Dongwan Kim (Kyungnam Univ.), was published in the international journal Environment and Planning A.

Outlook and Tasks for the Future

In September 2016, the SSK Research Project on East Asian Cities entered the third, medium-scale phase of the SSK Program carried out under the aegis of the Korean National Research Foundation. It is preparing to advance to the large-scale phase in September 2017 by establishing the SSK Research Center on East Asian Cities. The Center’s ambition is to grow into a hub of urban studies in East Asia by building new theories based on East Asian experience and supporting those theories with empirical research through its remarkable capability to conduct indepth interviews, surveys, and geographical information system (GIS) and big data analysis. Capitalizing on its academic research, the Center will simultaneously engage in practical studies in order to position itself as an alternative thinktank, capable of proposing practical solutions to urban problems in East Asia in collaboration with the government, businesses, and civil society.


▪Kim, E. H. (2016). The Urban Core Revival and Gentrification since the mid-1990s in Japan. Regional Sociology Vol.17, No. 3
▪Kim, E. H. and Park, B. G. (2016). State Rescaling and Zoning Strategies in Japan since the 2000s. Space & Environment Vol.26, No. 2
▪Kim, E. H. and Park, B. G. (2016). The Nuclear Industrial Complex and Construction State in Japan. ECO Vol.20, No. 2
▪Shin, H. B. (2016). China’s Urbanization of Capital and Dispossession : The Case of Guangzhou. Critical Review of History Vol.116
▪Hsu, J. Y. (2016). Is Cross-Strait Reconciliation Still Possible after the DPP Resumes Power in 2016: The Uneasy Encounter between China Dream and Taiwanese Small-But-Real-Happiness. Critical Review of History Vol.114
▪Hsu, J. Y. and Park, B. G. (2016). Zoning as A Space of Compromise and Experimentation : the case Study of Kaohsiung Export Processing Zone. Journal of the Economic Geographical Society of Korea Vol.19, No. 2
▪Lee, S. H. (2016). Production of riskscapes and evolution of democracy ; Focusing on the case of local referendum on cancellation of hosting nuclear power plants in Samcheok, South Korea. Journal of Korean Social Trend and Perspective Vol.96
▪Lee, S. W. (2016). North Korea’s Special Economic Zones Strategy in the Kim Jong-Un era: Territorialization, Decentralization, and Chinese-Style Reform and Opening?. Journal of the Economic Geographical Society of Korea Vol.19, No. 1
▪Lee, S. W. (2016). Geopolitics of the Kaesong Industrial Complex : Space of Exception, Universal Space or Hostage Space?. Space & Environment Vol.26, No. 2
▪Jang, S. H. (2016). From Plaza to Public Park : The Spatial-sociological Approach to Transformation of 5·16 Plaza. Space & Environment Vol.26, No. 2
▪Cho, S. C. (2016). China’s Urbanization and Privatization of Public Land. Critical Review of History Vol.116
▪Cho, S. C. (2016). Analytical Review of Jeju International Free City’s Development Strategy, depending on the Model of Public Resources’ Privatization. Space & Environment Vol.56
▪Ji, J. H. (2016). The Development of Gangnam and the Formation of Gangnam-style Urbanism : On the Spatial Selectivity of the Anti-Communist Authoritarian Developmental State. Journal of The Korean Association of Regional Geographers Vol.22, No. 2.
▪Hwang, J.T. (2016). The Production of Riskscapes in the Korean Developmental State: A Perspective from East Asia. Journal of the Korean Geographical Society Vol.51, No. 2
▪Hwang, J.T. (2016). Building a developmental urban matrix : a Busan city case study. Journal of The Korean Association of Regional Geographers Vol.22, No. 2
▪Hwang, J.T. (2016). The Implications of Urban Commons in the Context of Developmental Urbanism. Journal of the Korean Urban Geographical Society Vol.19, No. 2
▪Loretta Lees, Hyun Bang Shin and Ernesto López-Morales (2016). <Planetary Gentrification>. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press
▪Jamie Doucette and Anders Riel Muller (2016). Exporting the Saemaul spirit: SouthKorea’s Knowledge Sharing Program and The ‘Rendering Technical’ of Korean Development. Geoforum Vol. 75
▪Jinn-yuh Hsu, Dong-wan Gimm and Jim Glassman (2016). A Tale of Two Industrial Zones: A Geopolitical Economy of Differential Development in Ulsan, South Korea and Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Environment and Planning A
▪Jin-Tae Hwang (2016). Changing South Korean Water Policy after Political and Economic Liberalization. Journal of Contemporary Asia Vol. 47, No. 2
▪Jin-Tae Hwang (2016). The Chun Doo-Hwan Authoritarian Regime’s Securitisation of Water: the Case of the Peace Dam. Scottish Geographical Journal Vol. 132, No. 3-4
▪Jin-Tae Hwang, Sang-Hun Lee and Detlef Mueller-Mahn (2016). Multi-scalar Practices of the Korean State in Global Climate Politics: the Case of the Global Green Growth Institute. Antipode
▪Hyeng-joon Park and Jamie Doucette (2016). Financialization or capitalization? Debating Capitalist Power in South Korea in the Context of Neoliberal Globalization. Capital and Class Vol. 40, No. 3
▪Hyun Bang Shin (2016). Economic transition and speculative urbanisation in China: Gentrification versus Dispossession. Urban Studies Vol. 53, No. 3


Bae-Gyoon Park (Dept. of Geography Education)

Sehoon Chang (Dong-A Univ.)
Sungchan Cho (Institute of Land and Liberty)
Jamie Doucette (Univ. of Manchester)
Dongwan Gimm (Kyungnam Nat’l Univ.)
Jim Glassman (Univ. of British Columbia)
Jinn-yuh Hsu (Nat’l Taiwan Univ.)
Joohyoung Ji (Kyungnam Nat’l Univ.)
Eunhye Kim (Hitotsubashi Univ.)
Sanghun Lee (Hanshin Univ.)
Seungook Lee (KAIST)
Hyunbang Shin (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Research Fellows:
Jin-Tae Hwang (SNUAC)
Hanbyul Shim (SNUAC)

Research Assistants:
Heejin Choi (Dept. of Environmental Planning)
Wonkeun Chun (Dept. of Sociology)
Yoonai Han (Dept. of Geography)
Jinbum Jang (Dept. of Sociology)
Doyeon Lim (Dept. of Geography Education)
Jihyuk Park (Dept. of Geography Education)