My research is situated at the nexus between political, economic, and urban geography. The topic that has consumed much of my time over the last decade is the restructuring of the East Asian "developmental state" model in the context of neoliberalism and democratization. I've looked at this process primarily in South Korea but I am sensitive to the wider regional and global scales of political economic transformation.
There are four general themes that my current research falls into:
Geographies of labour control and labour activism
This work has examined changing patterns of labour control in South Korea that have been central to the institutionalization of precarious work, as well as responses from social movements, reformers, and trade unions. With Martin Hess, I an pursuing a new research project on the 'friction' between efforts to upgrade labour standards in global production networks at the firm level, on the one hand, and the often broader goals and efforts of labour movements to address issues such as restrictive labour laws and the minimum wage, on the other. The tentative focus of this project is on Korean garment firms in South and Southeast Asia.
Urban developmentalism in East Asia
Much of the literature on developmental states ignores the urban scale, while much literature on urbanization in East Asia ignores the influence of developmentalism. This project examines the ways in which urban space has been targeted for developmental intervention in both Cold War and Post-Cold War contexts in East Asia. I've been working on this project as part of the SSK East Asian Cities team. My contribution to this area has been to look at territorial experiments such as special economic zones as well as the circulation of narratives about solutions to urban-rural inequality through Korea's ODA policy. With Bae-gyoon Park, I've edited a forthcoming special double issue of Critical Sociology on the topic and am continuing to work on the topic of special economic zones in East Asia.
The Post-developmental state
The longest-standing concern of my research to date been on the political economic transformation of the Korean 'developmental state'. I've examined the effects of processes such as financialization, labour market reform, and expansion of official development assistance. This work has been particularly sensitive to the role of liberal and progressive actors in shaping and contesting economic policy, and outlining some of the normative and political dilemmas they have encountered.
Shaping political space
Much of my research is concerned with understanding the political in relation to economic change. Some of my past and recent work deals with this issue at a more conceptual level and has contributed to discussions of how we understand the political space and processes of post-democratization in various contexts. More recently I've been writing in a more Gramscian lens about how we might understand the question of personality in politics as well as the legacy of developmental state theorizing as a matter of practical politics.