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HK Plus Projects

Institute for Japanese Studies

HK+ Project Overview

Japanese Life-World in the Era of Post-Area Studies: Maturity and Change, Crisis, and Solidarity
Period : 2019/9-2026/8
- 1st Stage (3 years) 2019/9-2022/8
- 2nd Stage (4 years) 2022/9-2026/8

Introduction of HK+ Projects

Institute for Japanese Studies (IJS) at Seoul National University started as a research base for Japanese studies in November 2004, and since then we have consolidated the basis to develop as a comprehensive Japan research institution, making continuous efforts in constructing the academic infrastructure. In November 2008, IJS was selected as the Institute of Overseas Research for Humanities Korea (HK) by National Research Foundation of Korea (former Korea Research Foundation), which brought us a groundbreaking opportunity to further develop our research aspirations with the agenda . As a result, when HK Projects were finished in 2018, IJS was selected as the Best Research Center, and it was able to be chosen as the Research Institute of Overseas Research for Humanities Korea+ (HK+) Type 2 Projects, which are the follow-up of the previous HK Projects.

Our agenda for the HK+ Projects is “Japanese Life-World in the Era of Post-Area Studies: Maturity and Change, Crisis, and Solidarity.” Based on the robust foundation of research (personnel, regulations, and space) that we acquired through the success of HK Projects, we will initiate two-way research exchanges with outstanding foreign research centers and personnels to produce global research results. Also, with such results under the new paradigm of ‘post-area studies,’ we will take on the role of leading Japanese studies not only in Korea, but also in the world.

Specifically, we will focus on Japanese ‘Life-World’ again as the topic of research, and develop studies on life-world with the perspective of post-area studies to succeed the fruition of HK Projects. We expect Japanese society of the 2020s, which will initiate with Tokyo Olympics, to experience more fundamental changes in various areas such as politics, economy, society, culture, etc. than ever before in its postwar era in response to cumulated social crises and the task of mature socialization. The importance of empirically and comprehensively studying the life of Japanese when it is undergoing the most diverse and dynamic change in Japan’s postwar period cannot be emphasized too much.

Background and Purpose of the Theme Selection

Japanese Research in the Era of ‘Post-Area Studies’
  • The institute, through the decade-long HK projects, acknowledges the following: 1) irreversible changes are happening to the civil community and the nation of ‘postwar’ Japan, which formed relatively identical identity as of the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011; 2) these changes are due to the new phase of capitalism that is based on worldwide globalization and the development of information technology; 3) their influence reaches not only Japanese society, but also the overall international order.
  • The institute suggests ‘Post-Area Japanese Studies’ as a new research paradigm to revisit and redefine the changes of Japan from the perspective of global changes. There are two meanings for ‘Post-Area Japanese Studies’: 1) when it emphasizes ‘after,’ it means maturity of Japanese research as area studies; 2) when it emphasizes ‘free,’ it means various research tendencies to overcome the limitation of previous Japanese studies.
  • Post-Area Japanese Research’ is a comprehensive research frame to objectively and empirically validate and analyze the current situation where the two tendencies mentioned above coexist. This research originates from the traditional meaning of area studies that stresses the homogeniety and specialty of nation-state represented by ‘Nihonjinron’ and ‘Japanese Culture.’ It supports the achievements of global Japanese research that raised the problem of the center and its surroundings through the example of frontier-border and focused on the boundaries. Furthermore, it attempts to analyze the formation and organization of a new relationship that follows the structural changes in Japanese society through diachronic approaches overseeing the entire Japanese society after the modern age.

Research Methods

  • (1) Data accumulation of empirical studies and field surveys
  • (2) Introduction and universalization of diachronic approach
  • (3) Integrated research methods spanning humanities and social sciences
  • (4) Search for a new paradigm through cooperation with different area studies and fields
  • (5) Generation of universal knowledge based on the two-way network with international researchers/organizations

Expected Research Achievements

  • Publication of HK+ Studies Series as a joint research accomplishment and books by HK researchers
  • (2) Development of ‘Post-Area’ Japanese studies paradigm through publication and international distribution of joint research achievements with foreign researchers/institutes
  • (3) Generation of foundation and knowledge provision platform to nurture citizens preparing for the future of East Asia

Breakdown of the Implementation Plan

Japanese Life-World in the Era of Post-Area Studies: Maturity and Change, Crisis, and Solidarity
  • The institute proposes research keywords ‘Maturity and Change’ and ‘Crisis and Solidarity’ to intensify and expand ‘Life-World’ research. Such research methodology avoids the special perspective that views the conflict as inevitable because Japan, being homogeneous and unique, is fundamentally different from Korea. Also, it validates the point that Korea and Japan share various social issues as neighboring countries of the same era.
  • Unlike in the past when growth was the focal value, Japanese society is seeking to change into ‘mature’ society; however, many social issues are arising with ‘deformed mature society.’ The search for the possibility of the necessary ‘transformation’ in Japanese society to develop into a true ‘mature society’ is not only a task to understand the internal conflicts and contradictions in Japanese society, but also an ultimate contribution to the formation of peace regime in Korea-Japan relations and East Asia.
  • On the other hand, complex disasters represented by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, and ‘crises’ in the changing international order are expanding the uncertainty of Japanese society, Korea-Japan relations, and the international order. As a result, conflicts in not only Japan but also various levels like Korea-Japan and China-Japan relations are recurring and intensifying. Under this setting, the institute investigates and tracks practical methods and possibility of solidarity to mutually refer to the shared problems and solutions between Korea and Japan. In addition, it will seek the possibility of cooperation for the more desirable Korea-Japan relations.

Stage Themes and Research Subjects
  • The institute selects stage themes - for 1st stage (Sep. 2019~Aug. 2022) and for 2nd stage (Sep. 2022~Aug. 2026) - to conduct HK+ agenda. Also, it forms two research clusters that assume two ideology-regimes supporting postwar Japan, ‘Japanese democracy’ and ‘Japanese capitalism,’ as specific research subjects.
  • Objective and critical analyses of the conditions that we assumed as obvious until now, ‘Japanese’ democracy and capitalism that supported postwar Japan, to identify their actual pathways since the modern age are indispensable to the studies of Japanese ‘Life-World’ that entered a new phase after it went through irreversible changes in the 2000s.
  • The stage theme of 1st stage, , aims to identify how ideology-regimes of ‘Japanese democracy’ and ‘Japanese capitalism’ developed and matured independently in Japan after the modern age, and the crisis that appears as a result. Based on this effort, it attempts to study and analyze under what political, economic, historical, and sociocultural conditions the structural changes in Japanese life-world occurred, and how the results are being developed, through a disciplinary approach that organically combines the perspective of humanities and social sciences.
  • The second stage, , is designed to further develop the research achievements from the first stage to propose critical analysis and prospects of Japanese society in 2020 and beyond. Based on the HK project achievements that tracked current situation and historical formation of Japanese society, studies on the possibility of change and the method of solidarity, which are sought to respond to the maturity and crisis of ‘Japanese-style’ democracy and capitalism as an ideological system, as well as the historical and sociocultural background upon which the response and prospects are derived intensify the Life-World research.
  • IJS will analyze in depth how the social issues of Japanese society, such as disasters and environment problems, aging population, low birth rate, welfare problems, and minority, immigration, and refugee problems, will develop in this era. Also, the institute will discuss in detail about how the research keywords of ‘Change’ and ‘Solidarity’ can be applied to real-life issues as a perspective of studying and examining the social problems.