Professor raises awareness of Asian politics and relations
Determined to educate people about the history of East Asia, a USC professor of international relations and business began writing a book three years ago to achieve just that.
David Kang recently released his latest book, East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute, saying that most people are only taught about Europeâs historical international relations and rarely learn about how the East Asian countries interacted in their history.
âThe main point is to show that historical East Asian international relations was complex and vibrant and as nuanced as was Europeâs historical international relations,â Kang said.
He first developed the idea for his book a decade ago but only started writing it three years ago.
Kang said despite the fact that these Asian countries are important today, people tend to not know anything about how the countries interacted with one another 30 years ago, before they were integrated into the global society.
â[Itâs important to] make people more aware and present people with some knowledge of this time in a readable way, so that when we try to make sense of Asia today we have some sense of how it got to today,â Kang said. âWe talk about China and Japan with no knowledge of how they came to be.â
One of the most interesting things about East Asian history, Kang said, is that between 1300 and 1800 there was very little war between the countries themselves.
He notes that it wasnât the fact that the countries didnât have the means to fight wars â the countries did have large armies. This was an interesting contrast to European countries, he said, which were constantly at war with each other.
âWar wasnât in their minds the same way itâs not in our mindset that we might invade Canada. We could, but thatâs not the way it is,â he said. âHistorically, these countries had stable relationships. Among themselves they saw each other as legitimate.â
Kang began teaching at USC two years ago, after teaching at Dartmouth College. He is a professor in both international relations and business administration and teaches International Relations for non-majors (IR 101) and East Asian Societies (EASC 150).
In addition to teaching, Kang has also been the director of the Korean Studies Institute since he came to USC. The institute is still relatively young, he said, but he has big ambitions for the center.
The institute supports all research that has to do with Korea, and it is available to undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty. It also helps with research grants, holds conferences and sponsors a traditional Korean drumming troop.
The institute hosts speakers and public events, and according to Kang, the United States ambassador to South Korea will be speaking this winter.
USC is in the perfect position to make the institute the best in the world, Kang said, because of the location in Los Angeles and the resources that the school has as a private university.
âThe overall mission is to educate USC students,â Kang said. âThe vision is to be the best Korean studies institute in the world. We have a realistic chance to do that.â