Professor Yoonkyung Lee profiled in University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts & Science News

Sociology Professor Yoonkyung Lee was recently featured in an interview by U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science News. The interview explores Professor Lee’s research on the labour conditions and political processes in Korea, as well as her role as the Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies. Professor Lee is an Associate Professor of Sociology with teaching responsibilities at the St. George campus. She is a political sociologist with research interests in labour politics, social movements, and political representation.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

The politics of precarious labour and democracy in Korea

November 3, 2017   |  Diana Kuprel

You trace the historical formation of political opposition in Korea. What is unique about Korean society and political life?

Our understanding of democratic politics is hugely pre-defined by the political experience of Western societies. We work with presumed notions, such as modern political systems emerging with industrialization, political pluralism exercised by political parties, and civil society buttressing micro-level democratic processes. By doing so, we often make the mistake of assuming that if something is “different” from the “Western standard,” democracy is an aberration and deficient.

Over the years of my comparative study of political development in non-Western societies like Korea and Taiwan, I have come to learn that they need to be approached on their own terms. Politics in these societies cannot be understood without the historical legacies of colonialism, war and national division, which have set a different terrain for the creation of democratic politics. My task as a scholar is to identify the different trajectories and to explain what this “difference” adds to our knowledge of politics, democracy and social change.

In this sense, Korea presents an intriguing case, with a strong state, a contentious social movement, and relatively weak political parties. These three actors have formed a unique political dynamic under which political stability and predictability are hard to come by. The political force that seizes state power strives to use the overarching authority. Vocal social movements mobilize to contest the excessive state. And political parties are unable to harness the conflicting interests into the formal political process. It is this very dynamic that creates sporadic historical moments when people mobilize, become politically enlightened, directly participate, and make a drastic change in the course of politics. The phenomenal protest that occurred in Korea over several months in 2016 and 2017 led to the formal impeachment of the incumbent president Park Geun-hye—there is no better example that shows the unique political dynamic of Korea.

Read the full article here.

Welcome New Faculty

This year the Department of Sociology welcomes ten new faculty members into our community of scholars. This is the largest cohort of new faculty members we have seen in decades. They cover research and teaching interests ranging from classical theory to criminology and immigration studies and will help shape the character of the department in the years to come. Though housed across the three campuses, all faculty join together in contributing to the tri-campus graduate department.

Professor Ellen Berrey joins the faculty at the University of Toronto, Mississauga teaching in the area of Law and Society. She graduated with a PhD in Sociology from Northwestern University in 2008 and has previously taught at the University at Buffalo, SUNY and at the University of Denver.

Professor Irene Boeckmann is a new faculty member in Family and Demography, teaching at the St. George campus. Professor Boeckmann completed her PhD at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 2014 and spent 2015 as a post-doctoral fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center in Germany.

Professor Emine Fidan Elcioglu brings her expertise in political sociology and immigration to the University of Toronto at Scarborough. Professor Elcioglu received her doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley in 2016.

Professor Steve G. Hoffman received his PhD at Northwestern University in 2009 and taught for several years at the University at Buffalo, SUNY before coming to the University of Toronto at Mississauga. Professor Hoffman teaches in the area of social theory and the sociology of disaster.

Professor Rachel La Touche comes to the University of Toronto at St George this year where she is teaching in the areas of research methods and inequality. She received her PhD from Indiana University-Bloomington in 2016 and has previously taught at the University of Mannheim-Germany and at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research(ICPSR) Summer Program at the University ofMichigan.

Professor Yoonkyung Lee joins the faculty at the University of Toronto, St. George. Professor Lee received her PhD at Duke University in 2006 and has previously taught at Binghamton University. Professor Lee is a political sociologist with a focus on Korean studies.

Professor Sida Liu is a new faculty member at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. Professor Liu is a specialist in the sociology of law. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2009. Before coming to Toronto, Professor Liu taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also currently a Faculty Fellow at the American Bar Foundation and a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah received his doctorate in 2014 from the Centre for Criminology and Socio-legal Studies here at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. Before coming back to Toronto, Professor Owusu-Bempah taught for a year at the Indiana University, Bloomington. Professor Owusu-Bempah is a specialist in policing and race.

Professor Kim Pernell comes to the University of Toronto, St. George with expertise in economic sociology, organizational sociology and social policy. Professor Pernell received a PhD in Sociology from Harvard in 2016.

Professor Ashley Rubin joins the faculty at the University of Toronto, Mississauga bringing expertise in the sociology of punishment and prisons. Professor Rubin received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2013 and previously taught at Florida State University.