Literatures, Languages & Cultures

From Asian Studies classroom to the BBC studio

Teaching Fellow, Dr Lauren Richardson, talks to us about East Asian Relations and its relevance for understanding the current global political climate.

As tensions between North Korea and the US continue to dominate headlines around the globe, studying East Asian Relations is as relevant and critical now as it has been at any time since the end of World War II. In this short article, Teaching Fellow, Dr Lauren Richardson, tells us why she chose to specialise in Japanese-Korean Relations & Politics, where it’s led her in her career, and why students should consider the field.

Photo of Lauren Richardson
Dr Lauren Richardson

"As an undergraduate, I studied Korean and Japanese and, simultaneously, took courses on various aspects of East Asia. As Japan and South Korea both play an important role in global governance, and are big economies, I thought that learning about them would lead to career opportunities.

Over time, I became increasingly interested in the relationship between Japan and Korea, which is very contentious owing to their mutual historical past. Once I embarked on postgraduate studies, I therefore decided to specialise in this relationship and pursue an academic career.

As North East Asia is one of the most conflictual regions in the world, the specialisation that I have developed has come in useful for interpreting political developments to the wider public.

I have done this through the mediums of TV and radio - in two recent interviews for the BBC, for example - and various institutions outside of the university sector, including the House of Commons and the Daiwa Foundation."   

Lauren joined the Department of Asian Studies in 2015, where she teaches a course on US Foreign Policy in East Asia as part of the MSc in East Asian Relations programme. 

"Students with an interest in East Asian politics will benefit from this course, as it's impossible to understand the political, economic and security dynamics of the region without a knowledge of the role played by the United States therein.

The recent exacerbation of the North Korean nuclear crisis, for instance, bears some relation to the advent of the Trump administration. The course pays special attention to the US alliance network in East Asia and encourages students to understand contemporary political issues in the region from a historical perspective.

As well as students from the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), the course is also open to students in Politics and International Relations in the School of Social and Political Science (SPS). This makes for a very exciting classroom environment and provides a good opportunity for students to make friends outside their degree. 

While half of the students in our classes tend to have disciplinary expertise (in politics and international relations), the other half generally have regional or country expertise. This means that when we do group work in class, students approach the tasks at hand from different perspectives and can learn from one another."

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Related links

House of Commons │Historical Issues and Peace Building seminar

Daiwa Foundation│How to cope with North Korea seminar