The University of Michigan Nam Center for Korean Studies participates in an annual academic exchange with University of Southern California Korean Studies Institute where undergraduate students present research projects and compete for various prestigious awards. This year’s Korean Studies Undergraduate Exchange Conference would have been held at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus with the Nam Center hosting our USC participants. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the Nam Center was forced to quickly adapt the conference to an online format that would still showcase the incredible work of undergraduate student research. The online conference was a fantastic success as students from both institutions competed for five prizes.
The Nam Center Research Fellows came away with three out of the five prizes awarded at the Exchange Conference, including a win for Best Presentation by Malavika Sabu, which was decided by a vote among all attendees. Malavika rose to the challenge of presenting her extensive research in the abbreviated format called for by the online conference, expertly summarizing her findings on the role of women in Korea's Confucianist society through the examination of family registers over the last several centuries. Suhaila Yunus was honored twice, both as runner-up for Best Paper and winner of the Collegiality Award, which celebrates the student who is most engaged with the research of her fellow panelists. After presenting her research on the application of veto-player theory to Korea's 1997 financial crisis, Suhaila demonstrated a keen ability to find common themes in her panel's papers and asked several insightful questions during panel discussion. The On-the-Pulse Award went to Marissa Moore, for a paper on public health that cast a fascinating light on the various ways epidemics can be exacerbated by government response. Examining the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis in South Korea, Marissa revealed how public policy has resulted in a failure to curb the spread of the disease, in stark contrast to Korea's recent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.