PANEL 1. ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS OF COVID-19
Speakers: Dr. Danny Leipziger, Mr. Kyle Ferrier, Mr. Troy Stangarone
The pandemic has brought drastic changes to the economy: from changing the structure of the economy (i.e. GDP to consumption ratio, GDP to export ratio, and size in GDP) to creating whole new economic policies and agreements. Despite the global ef ort to resuscitate the economy, we still witness the underperforming service sector, growing concerns over the future market performances frightening the investors and unemployment is also starting to peak.
Amongst the nations who are faced with reduced durable goods consumption and investment, South Korea may be the greatest victim out of all. South Korea has always been heavily reliant on exports, especially capital and intermediate goods. With the prolonged global recession powered by the continued spread of COVID, the economy may soon be forced into a crisis. With these symptoms occurring globally, the panel seeks to analysis the current economy with regards to both global and domestic market. More importantly, we hope to discuss the predictions of the post-COVID economy; the mid-long term ef ects of our current policies. South Korea’s recent policies have been a big injection stimulus at the expense of the budget deficit. There are concerns that the policies were overly done and may cost us the risk of inflation and debt pressure. Through discussing both the past and future of our current pandemic, the panel seeks to identify and discuss the future of South Korea’s economy.
1. How far has COVID hindered the economy so far?
- South Korea’s management of Covid’s outbreak is regarded as a success and has been recommended to other countries including the UK as a role model to follow. The country’s rate of spread has been spectacularly low compared to other neighbouring countries. How much did that reflect on the economy? Do the two factors: good management of the pandemic and healthy economy necessarily correlate?
- Manufacturing exports are an essential part of South Korea’s economy, however Korea’s manufacturing industry also outsources to neighbouring countries, primarily China. To what extent has our supply chain been distorted and how has that affected domestic employment and firms in general?
2. Anti-COVID policies
- Have we overdone the policies(e.g government subsidies to all employees)? To what extent were the policies based on economic judgement?
- Under the current circumstance, what would indicate we are either at risk or recovering from a crisis?
- The government has conducted a massive expansionary fiscal policy to initially stabilise the economy. How risky will that debt and inflation be, and when and what effects will it have on the economy?
- If the spread of COVID continues, to what extent will the use of fiscal policy be affordable and what alternative can we resort to?
- Would there be any industry that may go extinct after COVID? How will this experience shape our future industries?
4. Economic Lockdown
- What may be the socio-economic consequences of lockdown and self-isolation?
PANEL 2. MIGRATION AND ETHNIC DIVERSITY IN SOUTH KOREA
Speakers: Dr. David Hundt, Prof. HaeRan Shin, Ms. Jirim Kim, Mr. Paul Carver
Over the past twenty years, the migration population of South Korea has steadily increased. However, although the number of migrants from neighboring countries (e.g. China, Japan, the Philippines, India, …), has indeed grown, South Korea is still deemed by its of icials as an ethnically homogeneous country. And when diversity is acknowledged, it is almost exclusively at the policy level. There are indeed specific migration policies that are devised to either 1) actively prevent the naturalization of migrants (e.g. the visa status of temporary low skilled labor migrants employed in the first and second sectors usually last three years; even if migrant workers succeed in being employed a second time, their extended visa status will terminate before they can reach the minimum length of stay that would allow them to apply for naturalization); or 2) ensure the cultural assimilation of said migrants (e.g. marriage migrants, who are mostly women, are not only expected to learn the Korean language and customs, and refrain from teaching their native language(s) and culture to their children, but also have considerably fewer legal and parental rights and protections than their Korean counterparts/partners). Given the evident attempts of the South Korean state to control its inward migration flows to preserve an overall perception of ethnic homogeneity, this panel seeks to discuss present and future migration-related challenges and policy trajectories that are shaping the Korean society, and its relationship with ethnic diversity.
1. Migration, multiculturalism, and cosmopolitanism. An analysis of South Korea’s understanding and instrumentalization of multiculturalism and ethnic diversity.
- How did multiculturalism come about in South Korea? What role does (or not) ethnic diversity play in South Korean society? Is multiculturalism in South Korea real or a purposefully constructed discourse?
- In what ways has the Korean state instrumentalized specific migrant groups to exhibit a sense of ‘modernity’ and ‘cosmopolitanism’ – and at what levels (e.g. city, national, regional)? How and why are certain migrant groups (e.g. Westerns and East Asians vs. South and Southeast Asians) excluded from this narrative of modernity and recognition?
- How have other Asian countries responded to South Korea’s representation/exclusion of their nationals from its portrayal of modernity and cosmopolitanism?
2. Migration, diversity, and the Media. An analysis of past and present politics of representation in South Korea’s mediascape.
- How has ethnic diversity been represented in Korean mainstream Media (news broadcasts, variety shows, TV shows, movies, …)? And what foreign cultures and imageries have been showcased?
- How does the representation of Western cultures differ from that of other Asian cultures? How has the representation of ethnic diversity changed over the years? What do foreigners of different nationalities think of the current ethnic landscape/mediascape of South Korea? And of the ways they and other foreigners are represented/ignored?
3. Migrants and Covid-19. A discussion about South Korea’s response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic from migrants’ perspective.
- Was Korea’s migrant population considered/included in the country’s Covid-19 response system? How easily have migrants been able to access healthcare services ever since the beginning of the pandemic?
- How were migrants represented in the media during the pandemic? How have undocumented migrants been coping? And what role have migrants’ associations and networks, both formal and informal, played during the pandemic? Were migrants asked to return to their home countries? And if so, was repatriation facilitated by the Korean state and/or employers, or was the responsibility and financial burden completely left to the migrants?
PANEL 3. EDUCATION SYSTEM
This panel is dedicated specifically to examining and evaluating the South Korean education system. Having done so, it aims to examine the role of the education system for students and evaluate the intended and unintended values that derive from it. The Korean education system has often been met with dichotomous opinions. On one hand, Korean students perform exceptionally well in aptitude tests run internationally such as the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) exam. However, flipside: the Korean education system is criticized for only focusing on their students’ short term academic prowess; they have historically left behind most other parts of “life” and notably, mental health. This panel seeks to provide an academic platform whereby the education system’s past and current goals can be identified, explained and discussed. We also hope through this panel, the future of the Korean education and its direction could be discussed as well. This panel discussion attracts great relevance as education is a societal foundation for all countries and, with the targeted audience being university students and professionals who have or are experiencing education in the UK, the UK education system can be compared. The panel thus aims to discuss the features that should appear in a great education system.
1. The role of the education system for Korean students
- Many of the top performing students in South Korea rely on “Hagwon” systems which provide in depth test preparation. Where do students actually learn their core material? Is the high level of education truly from the government’s education system?
- Considering the purposes of learning and of hagwons, does the hagwon culture promote success or inefficacy?
- Does such a system breed more inequality?
- Education is highly valued in Korea perhaps due to neo-Confucian influence. Is cultural/familial pressure a bigger driver for academic excellence in students?
- Have educational values been an impetus for Korea’s economy in the past?
- Does the education system prepare students for the workforce?
2. The culture in the Korean education system
- The Suneung is an exam run once a year in a student’s 12th year of education. Universities base their admissions decisions and evaluate students based on comparative grading. In order to gain admissions to the nation’s leading universities through the Suneung, often one must score highly in all subjects being the top 4% of all test takers. What are the pros and cons of this system?
- What does this mean for the mental health of students?
- Is it the competition that drives students, and is that sustainable in the long run?
- Is the Korean education system unforgiving? What do grades mean to students?
- Does the education disproportionately value students who are “jack of all”?
- Does everyone truly get a “fair shot” in the Korean education system?
3. The traditionally viewed Korean education system and its recent changes
- How was the education system in South Korea created? What were the initial goals for the education system? Is the Korean education system suitable for Korea today?
- The education policy following the Korean War focused on the restoration of society. How much have history and culture shaped the current education system of South Korea?
- What policy aims have been recently introduced and how have they been implemented? For example, the Free Semester and the 2015 Revised National Curriculum. How successful have they been?
- Why have these new aims been introduced? Has the recent change occurred due to influence from other cultures, such as the West?
- In light of these changes, is it still relevant to attribute the stereotype of rigidity to the current education system?
4. Moving forward
- What role does the education system currently have?
- What are the main challenges to the current education system? For example, that of equity in education attainment and lifelong learning.
- How might the current system be reformed to promote efficiency of learning and improvement in mental health at the same time?
- Is Korea on the right track?
PANEL 4. INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The recent US election has become a World’s interest in prediction of a drastic change that many nations would face, depending on which candidate will be elected. Since Korea has always had a close relationship with the US, China, Japan and North Korea, it has a great complexity in adjusting its international position regarding economy, diplomacy and security.
As Biden stated in his campaign slogan ‘Build Back Better’, he will take a dif erent strategy in foreign af airs from the Trump administration. He will try to bring back the US’s position as a global hegemonic leader in terms of economy and politics. Here, The panel will automatically draw on the fact that there has been an ongoing power conflict between US and China where Korea as an US alliance and the largest trader from China, has been pressurised politically to show the interest in both superpowers. As a response, the main topics of the discussions will be: first, the US-Korea relationship where Korea has to respond to the Biden administration’s objectives and strategy towards their foreign policy, second, South Korea’s foriegn policy towards North-East Asia and lastly, North Korea.
1. International relationship under the Biden administration
- In response to growing authority of China, would the Biden government persevere with the strategy of Trump? If not, what will be the objectives of Biden’s government and how will this impact globally and especially, Korea as part of the change?
- How will Biden’s economic policy moving away from Trump’s previous protectionist, unilateralist, isolationist and anti-immigrant proclivities would impact Korea’s economy in a global market?
2. Korea’s strategy in North-East Asia
- What stance should South Korea take between the US, an alliance nation and China, the largest trading nation, contributing their fair share and improving interoperability?
- Whilst unpromising Korea and Japan relationship is an ongoing issue, how will the change of political administration in both Japan and US influence the Korea-Japan and US diplomatic alliance?
3. North Korea
- Regarding the different approaches that Biden has proposed towards North Korea, how should South Korea act as a bridge and what are the potential benefits of Biden’s ?? approach as a result?
- Will the Biden administration take a different policy toward North Korea from the Trump administration? How will it differ from the Obama administration’s ‘strategic patience’? If so, what are the core objectives of Biden’s administration regarding the relationship with North Korea?
- How will Kim Jong-un, North Korean leader, respond to the changed U.S regime?