A Graduate Student Perspective: Gangsim Eom, G2, Anthropology, KI Graduate Summer Research Grant, Summer 2019

September 10, 2019
Image of student, Gangsim Eom, at a conference in South Korea in 2019
Thanks to generous support from the Korea Institute, I embarked on exploratory fieldwork this summer. This research not only laid preliminary foundations for my dissertation, but also rekindled the initial joy that led me to anthropology.

Digesting and critiquing social theories during my first year at Harvard reawakened my passion for research. As I had been nestled in South Korean social fabric, I had flattened complex social dynamics which blunted my analysis of the social fabric itself. Although I was trained to navigate intricate social and intellectual networks through theories, fieldwork presented unforeseen challenges. Without scholars and mentors who guided me this summer, I could not have made sense of the tapestry of stories I gleaned during fieldwork.

Under the aegis of the Asia Center as well, I spent eight weeks in South Korea and two weeks in Indonesia. At the same time, I presented my research at the 12th International Indonesia Forum in Taiwan and attended the 7th International Symposium of the journal Anthropologi Indonesia. These interlinked opportunities enabled me to carve out my niche as a researcher of Korean migrants in Indonesia.

In Korea, I collected important books and archival materials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Library, U.N. Global Compact, and independent researchers. In addition, I interviewed members of the Association of Korean Residents in Indonesia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, U.N. Global Compact, and several universities. Most importantly, my interviewees also included Indonesia-based businessmen at Korean firms such as KORINDO, KODECO, and POSCO. They shared their poignant stories for me to weave meaning, which allowed me to reflect on my privileged positionality as a researcher in addition to crystallizing my research ideas.

A Korean poem reads: “A guest’s arrival is momentous. / Past, present, and future/ Converge at his arrival.” With gratitude, I am still processing how the guests of my summer will continue enriching my future research with their histories and present lives.