Korean Studies Academic Wins the SLC Publication Prize for Early Career Research

By Cromwell Salvatera

21 March, 2017

Every year the School of Languages and Cultures (SLC) awards a prize for early career research.

The ‘SLC Publication Prize for Early Career Research’ started in 2015 and it is the school’s way of recognising excellent research work. The ‘SLC Research Advisory Committee’ reviews and recommends a short list of research work published during the year, from which the winner of the prize will be decided.

This year the SLC Publication Prize for Early Career Research goes to Dr Su-Kyoung Hwang for her book “Korea’s Grievous War”.

Here is an interview with Dr Su-Kyuong about writing and her book.

Get the "Korea's Grievous War"


Dr Su-Kyoung’s book is about the Korean War and the state of the population under the heavy hand of an authoritarian regime. In this book, Dr Su-Kyoung poured her knowledge and research so that humanity can learn from the painful lessons of history.

Even though she was on leave, Dr Su-Kyoung granted me an interview about to talk about her book. Here is the interview.


Welcome, Dr Su-Kyoung, by the way, thank you for letting me interview you. If I may, I would like to ask you a few questions about your latest work and successes?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   Yes.


I heard that you were awarded the SLC Publication Prize for Early Career Researchers. Would you kindly let us know about your research?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   My research is on the civilian massacres during the Korean War era. I study individual cases of political violence, wartime firebombing, and the abuses under authoritarian governments. 


How can your research help humanity?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   I look at the darker side of history or what Walter Benjamin sees as the “state of emergency." Sometimes it helps people to understand and respond to the present day crises, such as the ones we are seeing now.


How did you get to your role, and what kind of experience and preparation helped you the most?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   You mean my current position as a lecturer? After finishing PhD and before coming to Sydney, I taught at other universities. Working at different institutions and teaching a lot of classes strengthened me as a teacher. I also learned to balance teaching with research. 


Who would you say has been the most help in your career? How did they help you?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   My doctoral supervisor Bruce Cumings inspired and helped me to become a historian. My post-doctoral supervisor Gail Hershatter helped me to become a better teacher. Both wrote references for me and offered a lot of moral support.


What are your responsibilities in this position?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   I offer courses in Korean history, language, and culture. I am an undergraduate coordinator and, next semester, I will serve as acting chair of Korean Studies department. 


What do you like most, least about this job? What kind of stress do you deal with?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   I like the “life of the mind” aspect of the job. The fact that I can spend my life reading and writing is great. But the pressure to publish a certain amount of work within a given time can be stressful, especially when you are teaching a lot. 


Knowing what you know now, what advice do you have for getting into this research work?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   Reading other scholars’ works before getting into your research helps. 


What personal qualities or abilities, are important for doing well in this kind of work?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   I think it helps if you are patient and pro-active.  


For you, what part of this job is most satisfying and the most challenging?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   It’s satisfying to see my former students become successful in their careers. It’s challenging to multitask and balance different duties. 


What kind of changes, do you see coming, in your research?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   In the field of the Korean War studies, there is an increasing diversity in language sources. Scholars uncover documents written in Chinese, Hungarian, Russian, Czech, and so on. There are also increasing interest in cultural, literary, and cinematic materials. 


If you were going to change direction now, where would you go? How would you do it?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   In term of research, I would like to look at literary works produced in both South and North Korea during the 1950s and compare the ways in which they narrate the same historical events. 


Can you recommend the best entry level jobs to get started in this line of work?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   I think most of us begin as tutors or teaching assistants when we start out and then move on to become researchers and lecturers. Before and during my postgraduate studies, I held jobs as a language teacher, office worker, library assistant, and so on. So, I guess, any beginning seems okay. 


What advice would you have for our students, who is considering this field?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   In Korean Studies, it is important to learn the Korean language well and read broadly in other areas of humanities, including history, literature, international relations, and philosophy. 


Can you recommend any professional journals I could read in this field?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   Journal of Korean Studies, Journal of Asian Studies, Critical Asian Studies, The Asia-Pacific Journal.


What organisations would you recommend joining?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   Asian Studies Association of Australia and Association of Asian Studies.


What do you see as the major problems for those working in this field today?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   I guess this is a shared problem across humanities and social sciences the uncertainty of academic job market for recent PhDs. Korean studies have fared better than some fields, but there are tough years.


What do you think needs to be changed?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   I think students should be well-informed about their field and profession when they begin. 


Do you have a message of encouragement to your students?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   You may not see the result of your effort now, but it will eventually show. 


Finally, do you have a message of encouragement to your fellow researchers?

Dr Su-Kyoung:   I wish all goes well with your research

Contact:Cromwell Salvatera

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