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2015 Korea-Michigan Human Rights Research Fellows

Michelle Jones, MA Sociology ’17; PhD candidate, Sociology
Research Focus:
Seoul LGBTQ Movement & Homeless Queer Youth Social Services

The Korea-Michigan Human Rights Research Fellowship funded by Social Science Korea Human Rights Forum at Sungkyunkwan University and the University of Michigan Human Rights Initiative supported my study and travel to South Korea for one month during the summer of 2015. I spent this time studying human rights and law with sociologist Jeongwoo Ku; building affiliations in Korea for future research on LGBTQ rights social movements; and strengthening my application of social science research methods and human rights theory by mentoring Sungkyunkwan University students who conducted a survey on attitudes toward homosexuality and presented their findings through class discussion.

I arrived in Seoul in June, 2015 in order to observe and collect data on the 2015 Korean Queer Cultural Festival. I was able to achieve the my goal to volunteer with staff and youth at the DDingDong LGBTQ Youth Crisis Support Center, a recently established social service for homeless LGBTQ teens – by spending a week meeting with staff, learning about the center, engaging English and Korean speaking queer community members via social media, designing English language materials about their work, and distributing brochures at the Queer Cultural Festival on June 28. Festival organizers informed me that over 25,000 people attended in 2015, up from approximately 15,000 the previous year.

The opportunity to meet with DDingDong staff, build deeper affiliation and observe the center will enable me to prepare for future dissertation research with homeless LGBTQ youth. Qualitative and quantitative projects on this understudied group would contribute to fields of sociology, sexuality studies and Korean studies. This fellowship will impact my sociological research as I continue to research Korean society as an important example for transnational law and society literature. The classroom and field research conducted this summer will contribute to my career emphasis on research and teaching about Korean human rights social movements and Korean legal rhetoric.

Yoolim Jung, BA International Studies; BA Asian Studies; Honors ‘16
Research Focus:
Chemical Castration: Human Rights Violation or a Necessity for Children's Safety?

The Korea-Michigan Human Rights Fellowship was an invaluable experience that further stimulated my passion for Korean Studies and human rights issues.

During my stay in Korea, I attended Professor Jeong-Woo Koo’s Human Rights Across Borders class. By doing so, I had an opportunity to participate in thought-provoking discussions and meet new friends. Furthermore, the class was a great supplement to the University of Michigan Professor Melanie Tanielian’s Theory and Practice of Human Rights course. Professor Tanielian focuses on the historical and theoretical backgrounds that underlie contemporary human rights practices, whereas Professor Koo placed emphasis on measuring and evaluating state’s human rights activities. After taking his course, I gained a better understanding of human rights indicators and ratings and felt a great desire to invest time in further exploring this field.

Outside of class, I researched human rights issues related to the use of chemical castration to punish sex offenders in Korea. I learned that chemical castration under the Korean judicial system is vaguely positioned between treatment and punishment; thus, raising flags of human rights violations due to lack of consent and medical ethics revolving the procedure.

Overall, I had an amazing time in Korea. I am grateful to Social Science Korea Human Rights Forum, Sungkyunkwan University, and the University of Michigan International Institute's Human Rights Initiative at the University of Michigan for giving me a wonderful opportunity. I would also like to sincerely thank Professor Koo for welcoming me into his class and for taking his time to provide constructive feedback on my research.