June Hee Kwon is a faculty fellow of Korean Language and Culture. Her research and teaching focus on transnational migration and development; anthropology of exchange; kinship, ethnicity and relatedness; affect and compassion; aid and humanitarianism; travel of science and technology. Her area expertise spans China, North Korea, South Korea, and Japan—post-colonial and post Cold War East Asia inter-connections.
Currently, Dr.Kwon is completing her book manuscript, Rhythms of a Borderland: The Korean Chinese Transnational Commute Between China and Korea, examines the remittance-driven everyday lives of Korean Chinese who move back and forth between Seoul, South Korea, and the Korean Chinese Autonomous Prefecture of Yanbian, China, an ethnic zone bordering North Korea. In the context of the kinship reunions and ethnic alliances between Korean Chinese (ethnic Koreans in China) and South Korea that flourished after the Cold War, I conducted field research in China and South Korea for more than two years, tracing the circuit of Korean Chinese transnational labor migration that has been ongoing over the last two decades. Informed by theories of mobility and immobility, time and value, affect and ethics, my work conceptualizes rhythm as a bio-political subject-making principle that mediates time and space, present and future, regularity and irregularity. Whereas most observers understand transnational migration as either movement between spaces or simultaneous belonging to multiple places, my book reframes transnational migration as an assemblage of different perceptions and practices of time under the competing rhythms that shape transnational bodies and money flows.
Dr. Kwon is developing another research on transnational economy and compassionate capitalism into my second book, The Compassion of Science: The Humanitarianism Aids and Moral Economy in North Korea. This project examines the role of scientists and medical doctors who have engaged in humanitarian efforts to enhance a self-sufficient public health and eventual economic social betterment in North Korea. I pay special attention to the role of transpacific Korean diaspora (medical) scientists’ compassionate humanitarianism (building new labs and introducing new scientific methods and medical equipment) and the consequence of collaborative experiments with North Korean governments and their scientists under North Korea’s foreign policy. On the basis of multi-sited fieldwork across China, South Korea, and the US, The Compassion of Science will shed light on the intersection of science with compassionate capitalism in the context of a marginalized, precarious country—especially how this intersection plays a key role in inculcating market logic and developing a common scientific language.