American Scholar Introduces Korean Peninsula to the World


John Clinton Work IV (“Clint”) is an assistant professor of the University of Utah Asia Campus (UAC). He specializes in U.S.-Korea relations and is currently teaching “Global Citizenship” and “Politics & Film” this semester at the UAC. He aims to bring a better understanding of the Korean Peninsula to the world through writing academic and non-academic articles and books. He strives to reach a broader, global audience beyond just academics.

“What draws me to Korea and its modern history is the incredible amount and rapidity of change it has experienced. Several intense processes have occurred in such a little peninsula, including decolonization, foreign occupation and national division, an immensely destructive war and in South Korea, rapid industrialization and modernization in one generation. The transformation of South Korea is just jaw-dropping,” Work said.

Work’s interest in Korea can be traced back to his undergraduate days at Boston College, where his Korean-American friends, Justin Lee, Steve Moon, and Elizabeth Kim, introduced elements of Korean culture and experience to him. “As a history major, I had been loosely aware of the Korean War. My roommates sparked my interest. After reading Bruce Cumings’s North Korea and Korea’s Place in the Sun, I realized how deeply the United States was involved not only in the division of Korea but also in the ongoing stalemate,” Work said.

Work strives to introduce the Korean Peninsula to Americans. “There is not much current understanding of Korea. Most Americans do not know the difference between South and North Korea. Scholars should strive to mitigate such ignorance,” he said.

Work is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Washington. He plans to defend his dissertation and receive his PhD in the spring of 2019. “My research focuses on Korea. My intent is to turn my dissertation into a book and have it published in 2019. I already have the second book project about former President Roh Moo-Hyun underway,” Work said.

Work expressed his interest in assisting the UAC student body. “Apart from my research, I want to help build the reputation of the UAC by creating a vibrant and active student body,” he said.

“I like how the UAC is still being institutionalized and has a relatively small student body. I enjoy the proximity of students and professors. It provides a great asset for students and an opportunity for professors to get to know more about the students. It’s unique,” Work added.

Work also expressed an interest in serving as an advisor for student clubs and organizations. “I would like to teach students how to write for a wider audience by crafting short, 600- to 800-word articles,” Work said. [changed paragraph order]

Furthermore, Work said that he would like to see the UAC grow by offering more liberal arts majors. “In addition to communication and psychology, I would love to see majors like international relations or modern history introduced. If you do not understand the history and politics, it is impossible to understand the world,” he said. [changed paragraph order]

As an expat, Work is still getting adjusted to the Korean culture and custom. “I am accustomed to the manners, but I do find hierarchy to be hard to fully fit into as someone from a highly individualistic Western culture,” he said.

He finds South Korea’s perception of women difficult to accept. “I think there is a lot of traditionalism and expectations that Korean women should get married and have certain roles in this society. I hope that changes. It is something that I have no real control over, but I hope to see change in Korea. American society has many of its own issues to work out too, so this is not exclusive to Korea,” Work lamented.

Apart from his academic and social ambitions, Work enjoys playing basketball, doing calisthenics and yoga, and watching Netflix. He also grows a beard for fun. “I started growing a full beard because none of my roommates had it in college. I grew it as a joke but now it is a part of me. If I did shave, I would look like a 17-year-old,” Work chuckled.

Written by Woo-Sang Kim | Edited by Sky Waite