Mixing Asian and English studies: is that possible?

Even though it is not mandatory, the best way to achieve a satisfying piece of work is to find a subject that is both motivating for the student and relevant for a master’s thesis. However, one needs to be careful not to be carried away by their affinity with their subject, since it can also be a trap. Emotions can influence one’s work and as a result a student may end up lacking objectivity. Nonetheless, combining various hobbies or even aspects in one’s paper remains a possibility: the key is to find the proper way to link them together, although sometimes it can be difficult to achieve.

The advantage, in my case, is that civilisation is about using other disciplines, such as human sciences, to understand History. I personally decided to deal with Korea and the United States because I am interested in both Korean history and culture and American civilisation/history. It could have been other Asian countries such as Japan or Vietnam which are linked to the United States, since they shared common history at some point, but I had a little more affinity with Korea. It may seem odd to pick an Asian country for an essay in Anglophone studies, but I think it worth digging into other countries’ history to better our understanding of another country through international relations. In my case, I used the Korean perspective to better my understanding of American history.

As afore-mentioned, objectivity has a predominant place in research. I went to South Korea four times and I have a particular relation with this country, which is why I must take some distance from my topic so that my paper won’t be too tainted by my personal bias. Something that could link these two countries was to be found in the Korean peninsula. I thought of an event which involved them both: the Cold War, and more specifically the Korean War. International relations between the United States, South Korea and North Korea are important in maintaining peace in Asia: The omnipresent threat of North Korea missiles and nuclear tests are something very significant at the moment. This explains why some American soldiers are still deployed in South Korea and stationed at the US military base in Itaewon, Seoul.

Even though I decided to link Asian and English studies, it was a given that doing so was giving me a lot of work as I had to look for Korean sources in addition to other types of sources. What I mean by “Korean sources” is that I had to look into documents written by Korean authors to have a different point of view from American authors. These sources may not be written in English or translated from Korean, so it is one of the hardships I had to cope with. Official documents would be very interesting to read too but my Korean skills are not enough to understand these and I would have to go to South Korea to find them. To get round the language barrier I would advise to start with basic knowledge of the language and/or have a native speaker that can help the student understand such sources. It may seem hard, but it is nothing compared to the pleasure I had while studying various perspectives, from one country to another, on the same issue. Tensions between North Korea and the United States are growing and so the situation is changing rapidly. But, at the same time, the advantage is that there are some types of documents I would have probably never looked at without the recent events that occurred with North Korea, such as hearings about the sanctions taken against North Korea and China by the Congress.

Keywords: United States, Korea, civilisation, studies, Asian, English

House of Representatives. “Sanctions, Diplomacy, and Information: Pressuring North Korea.” Foreign Affairs Committee (Dec. 9, 2017).