Day: May 1, 2013

Policy-Relevant Research, Redux

e-International Relations asked me to write a piece about doing policy-relevant research. I thought I’d cross-post it here, especially timely given recent posts on this blog along with Ronald Rogowski’s screed that our work is too policy-relevant but policymakers just don’t want to hear what we are saying (HT: The Monkey Cage). Here is the full post:

During graduate school, the community of up and coming scholars who wanted to do policy-relevant research seemed a bit like Fight Club. It was something each of us secretly wanted to pursue but were reluctant to talk about in public. We found each other at those few conferences and workshops that were designed for folks like us such as SMAMOSNew Era, and even IQMR. More recently, as junior faculty, like-minded academics would come across each other at IPSIthe Next Generation Project, and Term Member gatherings of CFR.

Does it get better? For years, we have seen warnings and lamentations by some of our senior colleagues about the policy-academic divide (see herehereherehereherehere). Some attribute it to a rise in statistics and later game theory, others suggesting it has to do with the professional incentives that encourage scholars to eschew grand theory for more targeted, esoteric work in semi-obscure peer-reviewed outlets.

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Was Kaesong a Hole in the Korean Iron Curtain, or a Subsidy to the Kim Monarchy?


So it increasingly looks like the inter-Korean Kaesong industrial zone is closed for good. (The Wikipedia write-up is a pretty good quick history of it.)

The zone was set-up during the Sunshine Policy period (1998-2007). It was to do 3 things: 1) Lead to some liberal-capitalist spill-over in the North, 2) Expose regular North Koreans (the workers in the area) to regular South Koreans (the managers and staff), and 3) Generally provide some inter-Korean cooperation that might hopefully reduce larger tensions. A resort area in North Korea (Mt. Kumgang) was also opened along these lines in the Sunshine period. Broadly the idea was along the lines of liberal explanations for the Soviet Union’s changes in the 1980s: the Helsinki Accords and CSCE opened the USSR to the outside world, and the inflowing liberalism slowly changed attitudes that eventually helped wind-down the Cold War. Unfortunately, none of this seems to working in the NK case.

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