Dec. 1, 2017, Dr. Ji-Hyun Ahn released her new book: “Mixed-Race Politics and Neoliberal Multiculturalism in South Korean Media.” Ahn joined the Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences program at UW Tacoma as an assistant professor in September 2013 and teaches courses on media globalization, inter- Asian media and cultural studies.
In her book, Ahn focuses on the change in racial dynamics in South Korea with the increasing number of mixed-race Koreans. She also looks at four high-profile televised racial events that deal with neoliberal multiculturalism, aiming to redefine the attributes that make up a Korean identity.
“I saw discrepancy in how [Koreans] engage with multiculturalism, keeping in mind that South Korea has seen an increase in diversity [in people],” Ahn said. “The book is about mixed-race representation in South Korea, and how we should understand and deal with this social change.”
Ahn travelled throughout Asia for her research, interviewing people all around Asia to understand the ground realities that contribute to a nationalistic point of view. Her focus was to find out why there is a rise in anti-Korean sentiment and to highlight the factors that are resisting globalization and diversity.
“I really wanted to initiate the conversation about what it means to study race. There is hardly any discussion about racial diversity and the issues associated within the South Korean academic domain,” Ahn said. “There are no policies that are safeguarding multicultural families from hate crimes in South Korea.”
Her research has heavily relied on her academic work and different interactive outlets such as the press, commercials and television programs. She has spent a larger part of the last decade researching, scripting and compiling her book.
“This book grew out of my dissertation, so I spent around five years on this topic as a graduate student,” Ahn said. “After that, I got hired at UWT; it took me another four years to transform the dissertation into a book and make it publishable.”
The book provides an in-depth analysis of how South Korea is failing to cope with effects of globalization. Ahn believes that major steps must be taken so that the public can be culturally sensitive and accepting of diverse upbringings.
“I think there will be a difficult moment, considering we can see there is already a backlash to the multiculturalism in South Korea,” Ahn said. “So, I hope we can educate and nurture our future generations to be more receptive and more tolerant towards people with diverse backgrounds.”
Ahn believes that South Korea is having an identity crisis, where the public is reacting negatively to other Koreans who do not have a “pure” Korean heritage. She believes her book is a small step towards addressing, accepting and fixing this high wave of intolerance.
“There are so many people I would like to thank — my family for providing me the opportunity to come to the U.S. and grow,” Ahn said. “I would also like to thank my colleagues in the communication department at UWT, who aided me with my research and made this book a reality.”
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