The Graduate School of Korean Studies in the Academy of Korean Studies is a government-funded institution established to develop and globalise Korean studies. It brings together 50 faculty members and 250 students, a half of whom are international from 33 countries, to create an open and dynamic community to widen and deepen their knowledge in the fields of humanities and social sciences pertinent to Korea.
– Korean History – Diplomatics and Bibliography – Philosophy – Korean Linguistics·Korean Literature – Anthropology·Folklore – Religious Studies – Musicology – Art History – Cultural Informatics·Human Geography – Political Science – Sociology – Education – Korean Culture and Society
Benefits for International Students
– Tuition fees are fully waived for the whole coursework period. – About 70% of international students are provided with the Government Grant, a monthly stipend of ￡460. – A 5:1 student-faculty ratio enables close one-on-one guidance. – Korean language courses, tutoring, writing clinic, and various cultural activities are available free of charge, supporting students’ academic performance.
– English language proficiency equivalent to or higher than TOEFL iBT 80, IELTS Academic Module 6.5, or TEPS 301 for applicants for Korean Culture and Society major – Korean language proficiency equivalent to or higher than TOPIK(Test of Proficiency in Korean) level 4 for applicants except for Korean Culture and Society major
Application Applications are open on 24th September and close on 8th October 2021. Please apply online at gradaks.recruiter.co.kr
Why Study at GSKS?
As an educational institute established and funded by the Korean government with the aim of promoting Korean studies, we provide international students with excellent educational and living environments as follows:
Tuition fees are fully waived for the whole coursework period for all international students.
69.8% of international students benefit from the Government Grant, a monthly stipend of ￡460 for a year, renewable upon evaluation.
A 5:1 student-faculty ratio enables close one-to-one guidance by professors.
Korean language courses are available free of charge to assist international students with academic writing, presentations, and discussions.
Various programs such as tutoring, writing clinic, cultural activities and airfare subsidy for presentation abroad, etc. support students’ academic performance.
Currently, approximately 250 students including about 120 international students from 33 countries are enrolled in our Master’s or doctoral degree program in the fields of humanities and social sciences pertinent to Korea.
Coursework period is 2 years for a Master’s degree program and 3 years for a doctoral degree program.
An academic year consists of two semesters and courses are provided for 15 weeks per semester. A spring semester begins in March, and a fall semester in September.
Most courses are taught in Korean, while courses in Korean Culture and Society major are provided in English.
Students earn 3 credits each course. In order to graduate, students of a Master’s degree program should complete 24 credits, and a doctoral degree program 36 credits, other than mandatory Korean language courses which are non-credit. Both Master’s degree and doctoral degree students should write a thesis.
A keen interest in Korean studies, coupled with an undergraduate degree (for a Master’s degree program) or a graduate degree (for a doctoral degree program)
English language proficiency equivalent to or higher than TOEFL iBT 80, IELTS Academic Module 6.5, or TEPS 301 for applicants for Korean Culture and Society major
Korean language proficiency equivalent to or higher than TOPIK(Test of Proficiency in Korean) level 4 for applicants except for Korean Culture and Society major
Applications are sought twice a year. Application for 2022 spring semester will be open on 24 September and close on 8 October 2021. Applications for 2022 fall semester will be sought in March 2022.
How to Apply
To apply, visit here and complete the online application form. A soft copy or a scanned copy of the following documents should be uploaded on the application website:
A graduation certificate and official transcripts
A score report of TOFEL iBT, IELTS Academic Module, or TEPS (if applicable)
A TOPIK certificate (if applicable)
In addition, a letter of recommendation should be sent by email.
1st Process (If applicable) : Korean Language Proficiency Test
– If applicants do not submit a valid TOPIK score certificate, GSKS Korean language teachers conduct a phone interview to test their Korean language proficiency.
– Applicants for Korean Culture and Society major are not applicable.
2nd Process : Document Screening
– Document screening is held for applicants who meet all the application requirement.
– Overall evaluation of applicants’ research plan, academic ability, language proficiency, and academic background (shown in personal statement and a recommendation letter) takes place.
3rd Process : A Video Interview
– A video interview is held to those who have passed the 2nd process.
If you have any queries about the program or the application process, please contact us at email@example.com or +82-31-730-8183.
TYPE / ROLE
Master’s Degree or Doctoral Degree Program
Diplomatics and Bibliography
Korean Linguistics · Korean Literature
Anthropology · Folklore
Cultural Informatics · Human Geography
Korean Culture and Society (Only available for Master’s degree program)
Seongnam City – South Korea
Perched on the side of Cheonggye Mountain, 30km south of the center of Seoul, the campus provides a fantastic setting for the academic pursuits of students with its peaceful atmospheres and natural environments. Also, students can reach dynamic youth culture of Gangnam area within 30 minutes by bus as well as artistic and historic heritage of Seoul city center within an hour
Click here to find out more and fill in application.
Many governments and state agencies in Southeast Asia are shifting towards the operation of ‘property state’ (Haila, 2015) or ‘cities for profits’ (Shatkin, 2017) or ‘neoliberal policies’ (Chen & Shin, 2019). In Malaysia, retirement and second-home properties have been promoted by the government to lure foreigners to buy relatively cheap, free-hold properties in cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Melaka and Johor Bahru. However, such development tendency has been adding pressure to the provision of affordable housing because developers are keener to develop international property projects than those less-profitable products of local housing. Since 18 March 2020, Malaysia has imposed a series of entry and movement restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These restrictions brought uncertainty and new challenges to the operation of international property market. This blog discusses the property-related policy responses taken by the Malaysian governments, while reflecting on a prevailing concern over housing affordability.
The proliferation of international property development
The proliferation of international residential property development is bound up with the Malaysia My Second Home program (MM2H), a special long-term visit pass (renewable every 10 years) for foreigners to reside in Malaysia. This investment migration program was introduced by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture in 2002, with 42,000 participants having been approved to date. To encourage property-buying, for example, MM2H participants are allowed to withdraw partial of the required fixed deposit from the second year onwards (RM50,000 for aged 50 years and above or RM150,000 for aged 50 years and below) for expenses related to house purchase. It is important to note that, since 2020, the federal governments lowered the minimum price threshold from RM1 million to RM600,000 (under condominium/apartment segment) for the purchase of properties by MM2H participants with an attempt to solve property overhang. A total of 31,661 unsold residential units recorded by the end of the first half of 2020 for whole Malaysia, while Johor (6,166 units) and Selangor (4,865 units) faced the most severe situation of property oversupply (Napic, 2020). Here comes the questions. To what extent has MM2H accelerated capital growth in residential property? Would it have actually worsened the problem of property oversupply and housing affordability?
Despite the fact that there is no government or market data enabling us to answer the above questions, however, the whole idea of MM2H is capitalising on off-shore investment, privileged lifestyle and ability to hold long-term visit pass for small-scale investors. To resonate with Aihwa Ong’s concept of ‘flexible citizenship’ (1999), MM2H elucidated such intention by maximising capital accumulation from strategies of migration and border-crossing flexibility. In recent years, both local and foreign developers have taken a great advantage from this opportunistic policy to scale-up their international property development. For example, Iskandar Malaysia regularised the formation of international zone in Iskandar Puteri (formerly known as Nusajaya) to allow more than 25,000 residential units built for the speculative market of ‘seamless border-crossing living’ between Singapore and Southern Johor (see Ng & Lim, 2017; Ng, 2020). A series of exclusive facilities such as international boarding schools, a world-class theme-park, a private yacht marina, healthcare centres and hotels have been developed to create a lifestyle matching the international standard. Forest City by Country Garden Pacificview is another housing mega-project where a well-capitalized Chinese developer has ventured into the emerging market of international property in Johor. This project takes the cue from Beijing’s promulgation of the Belt and Road Initiative to lure homebuyers from China and the neighbouring regions. These high-priced housing projects, however, did not make any direct contribution to the provision of affordable housing for Malaysians. To this end, MM2H can be best understood as a result of contingent overlaps of capitalist interests by state and real estate developers.
COVID-19 and the ‘Malaysia My Second Home Program’
The COVID-19 outbreak in Malaysia has caused an unprecedented disruption to the international property market and the operation of the MM2H program. As a result, new applications for MM2H have been suspended with no clear direction of when the program is to resume. This sudden decision has disrupted international property sales. Furthermore, movement restrictions triggered by the pandemic have reshuffled the MM2H holders’ privileges of border-crossing and visiting their Malaysian homes. For example, the Johor-Singapore border closures have a far-reaching impact on everyday border-crossing practices, not to mention the existing business of international property. Although MM2H pass holders may apply for entry permission to return to Malaysia, the government enforced entry restrictions on foreigners who are travelling from countries that have recorded over 150,000 COVID-19 cases. In addition, all passengers travelling into Malaysia are required to serve a two-week-long mandatory quarantine at dedicated quarantine centres.
Several MM2H pass holders and consultants reported to local news media regarding their dissatisfaction over a lack of clear directions and considerations given by the Malaysian authorities (see Free Malaysia Today, 22 May 2020; The Star, 9 June 2020; Thomas, 2020; Davison, 2020). In brief, they wish for MM2H pass holders to be treated equally as citizens because they have been contributing a large amount of direct investment to the country’s economy. To a certain extent, these situations expose the instability and vulnerability of the MM2H program. For the government, perhaps the time is ripe to think more rigorously about this investment migration program in terms of risk management, investor relations and inclusiveness. For the real estate developers, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed underlying concerns over ‘sustainability’ of the current business model and growth strategies of international property. What still makes these high-priced residential projects attractive when the selling point of cross-border mobility can no longer be taken for granted? Given a realistic view that the coronavirus pandemic might take up to several years until it is under control globally, the market responses towards international property in the post-coronavirus era remain uncertain.
How helpful are the National Budget 2021 for Malaysians to buy home?
Housing affordability is a prevailing issue in Malaysia, especially for urban dwellers. Between 2002 and 2016, the country’s overall housing affordability worsened significantly where Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and Johor were ranked under ‘seriously unaffordable’ category (Khazanah Research Institute, 2019). Although there are more than 31,000 unsold units available in the market, these units are simply unaffordable for the majority of Malaysians.
How does the government help Malaysians toward home ownership amid the coronavirus pandemic? Reintroduced under the Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan by the federal government in June 2020, the Home Ownership Campaign provides stamp duty exemption on instruments of transfer (for properties below RM1 million) and instruments on securing loans exemption (between RM300,000 to RM2.5 million), as well as a 10 percent price reduction but limited to those developers who have registered for the scheme. On 6 November 2020, the National Budget 2021 announced a series of initiatives targeted at increasing home ownership. An extension of full stamp duty exemption on instruments of transfer and loan agreements has been granted for first-time home buyers to buy new launch or sub-sale properties priced up to RM500,000.
How helpful are these stamp duty exemption schemes? Put simply, they will only benefit home buyers who managed to secure housing loans from banks. However, banks are likely to tighten lending standards because people’s debt-servicing capacity is deemed to have deteriorated due to potential retrenchment and recession, thus making it relatively difficult for people to own their first home.
Under the Budget 2021, the Ministry of Finance will allocate RM500 million to build 14,000 housing units for the B40 group, representing the bottom 40 percent of earners by income in Malaysia, and RM315 million for the construction of 3,000 units of Rumah Mesra Rakyat by Syarikat Perumahan Nasional Bhd. The government will also be offering a rent-to-own scheme for 5,000 PR1MA units limited to first-time home buyers. While Malaysians are recognising these positive attempts to build more affordable housing in the coming years, there is still a lack of immediate action taken by the government to solve pressing housing concerns. For example, there is a possibility to convert those underutilised public buildings and abandoned shopping malls as short-term solutions for the urban poor or homeless people. Moreover, there is a worrying tendency whereby private developers and government-linked developers are likely to focus on the luxury housing market (Lim & Ng, 2020). For the case of Medini Iskandar Malaysia, developers have been exempted from building low-cost housing as part of corporate social responsibility. In other cases, developers have preferred to pay penalties to local governments instead of meeting their responsibilities. In this regard, local governments should tighten the requirements for private developers to build affordable housing. While the country is actively promoting the MM2H program and international property market, the government must also put effort into answering this question – what is the right balance to juggle capital growth and housing affordability at the same time?
COVID-19 and housing affordability remaining as a huge challenge for Malaysia
Housing is increasingly being regularised towards a new geography of profits and politics in Asia (Chen & Shin, 2019). To turn property development into a rent-seeking mechanism, the government began to intervene housing policies and market-oriented practices. The two roles of ‘control’ and ‘exploit’ allow the government to expand their authority over public and private realms of property development. However, not only may these two roles lead to conflicts of interest between the state and non-state players involved, they also increasingly collide with social justice and governance integrity.
In Malaysia, both COVID-19 and housing affordability remain huge challenges. On the one hand, the coronavirus crisis has exposed new operational issues and policy concerns associated with the MM2H program. On the other hand, the vulnerability of international property market has been attributed to negative market sentiments due to movement restrictions. During these challenging times, the government should pay more attention to the local housing demand-supply mismatch and the reordering of state-business relationships in property development. International property development is a contested field of capital accumulation built upon market speculation. To avoid any irresponsible market speculations, the government should take stronger measures to guard against housing which is built for profit, not for living.
Chen, Y., & Shin, H. B. (eds.) (2019). Neoliberal urbanism, contested cities and housing in Asia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan US.
Lim, G. & Ng, K.K (2020). Chapter 16: Johor’s housing policy and development trends. In: The SIJORI Series: Johor – the abode of development? Hutchinson, F. & Serina Rahman (eds.) p.424-446, Singapore: ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.
Ng, K.K & Lim, G. (2017). Beneath the Veneer: The Political Economy of Housing in Iskandar Malaysia, Johor, Trends in Southeast Asia, 12/2017, Singapore: ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.
Ng, K.K (2020). Chapter 15: Johor Bahru’s urban transformation: authority and agency revisited. In: The SIJORI Series: Johor – the Abode of Development? Hutchinson, F. & Serina Rahman (eds.) p.407-423, Singapore: ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.
Ong, A. (1999). Flexible citizenship: The cultural logics of transnationality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Shatkin, G. (2017). Cities for profit: The real estate turn in Asia’s urban politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Dr Keng-Khoon Ng is Lecturer at the School of Architecture and Built Environment, UCSI University Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. He completed his PhD at the National University of Singapore in 2019. His research interest is in architecture, urban planning and the politics of urban transformation. He has written several publications about the urban changes in Johor’s Iskandar Malaysia.
This article was previously published by the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is republished by Insights on Southeast Asia following the Creative Commons rule: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/uk/
Honorary Research Fellow, University College London, UK
In Southeast Asia, Cambodia is the most impoverished nation whose economy relies on garment and manufacturing industries, apart from tourism and agriculture. The country’s garment and manufacturing sector, especially the garment and footwear industry, emerged in the early 1990s after the first general elections organised by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia. The United States and the European Union (EU) have supported Cambodia’s export-driven economy through their Generalised Systems of Preferences (GSP) and other trade schemes. The EU, for example, has allowed Cambodia to export duty-free and quota-free to its market since 2001 under the Everything but armed (EBA) scheme. These have boosted Cambodia’s garment sector that now employs about 600,000 Cambodians, most of whom are women from rural areas. With the support of the garment and other industries, Cambodia has managed to significantly reduce poverty and transformed its economy to become a lower-middle-income country in 2016. Annually, Cambodia exported about EUR4 billion (2017-2019) (European Commission 2020) and USD 4 billion (2017-2019) (United States Census Bureau, 2021) of apparel products and goods to the EU and the US markets, respectively. As such, the manufacturing industry contributes about 10 per cent (2017-2019) to the Cambodian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (World Bank, 2020).
While these supports are significant to the country and her people, the Royal Government of Cambodia’s human rights, and freedom of association and speech, and democracy in general, have been sabotaged as the country has leaned towards authoritarianism, including the dissolution of the prominent opposition party, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in 2017, and the on-going intimidation and spurious arrests of human rights and environmental defenders, restricting space of civil society organisations. These restrictions have provoked the EU to withdraw its EBA scheme to Cambodia, harming workers and its related sector. Many factories were forced to shut down without proper indemnities for the employees.
Coincided with the imposing tariff by the EU, Cambodia’s economy, especially its garment and manufacturing, are doubly punished by the emergence of coronavirus (COVID-19), which spread across the world. Not only have pandemic severely disrupted the global supply chain and markets of garment and manufacturing industries, leaving many jobless, but it has also affected the entire country’s socio-economics. The lack of proper remedial measures to the impacts by the government has sparked dissatisfaction, provoking activism. Amid the country’s leaning toward authoritarianism as manifested by the 2018 election, and the restriction imposed by the government to contain the virus, many were forced to stay at home, compelled to subscribe to digital platforms for study, works, communication, and activism. This has reframed those who have been affected by the EU’s sanction and pandemic not to stage offline (on-street) but online activities to advocate for better solutions.
In this blog, I seek to understand online activities and activism during the pandemic and examine the adverse consequences of offline avoidance in the time of the pandemic. This blog argues that the endeavour, either by the state or individuals, to avoid offline activities to contain the virus, has adversely induced a new form of virus, that is digital surveillance, that has infiltrated everyone’s digital devices. More than the panopticon of the virus, which may be observed as symptoms showed, the new form of digital virus embodies and incubates in every device, smartphone, without showing a symptom like COVID-19. While social media is a COVID-19 free platform for ordinary citizens and activists to connect and express their concerns during the pandemic, this platform is an invisible hand of surveillance of the governed body.
This blog is written based on my on-going observation of Cambodia’s socio-political and technological development, employing digital ethnography to collect data from digital sources and from observing relevant social media pages and profiles. Quantitative data presented in this blog is acquired from using Google Search, focusing on “news” media outlets captured by Google search engine.
The remainder of this blog begins with a discussion about conceptualising how digital media become a new form of digital virus, a form of the pandemic that is neither known to us, in the context of surveillance. It then illustrates how COVID-19 induces Cambodians to subscribe to social media and digital devices before providing evidence on how the latter would strengthen an authoritarian surveillance system.
Panopticon of virus and digital technologies
The digital community has been recognised as a modern tool of human development and evolution. Many have been impressed by this evolution as digital machines and devices can process data and circulate images and voices from a community to another. Kittler (2010, p.11) argues that “machines take tasks – drawing, writing, seeing, hearing, word-processing, memory and even knowing – that once were thought unique to humans and often perform them better”. Given this capability, digital devices and machines like smartphones and cloud devices, become a modern type of panoptic tools incubated in our everyday lifestyle. The devices and the internet are now replacing our basic needs. Drawing on Foucault’s (2012) conception of the panoptic prison cell, these devices gradually observe and incubate in our body and mind without warning us; health applications are exemplars in this context. It is like a virus that has affected us by having not given us a symptom of it. As we unintendedly concede or consent to do so, this new type of digital virus has extracted our personal and privacy data for buyers’ commercial and political purposes. Zuboff (2019) rightly illustrates that access to the digital community exposes oneself to a significant risk. It is a risk of losing or co-opting their privacy rights, rendering privacy data (our private space in essence) to the corporate giants. Having submitted to the machine learning system, holding the state and politicians accountable to citizens, primarily through activism, is facing difficulties. More often than not, for profit-making purposes, the media corporate capitalists tend to co-opt with the surveillance and authoritarian states to gain legitimate power as in the US presidential and UK parliamentary elections.
Drawing on how activists and state interact in China, MacKinnon (2010) introduces a concept of “networked authoritarianism”, which is a political tactic that creates selective social openings for transparency but, in fact, monitors and stifles dissents (He & Warren 2011). This networked authoritarianism in the digital era is framed based on the notion of a networked society whose key social structures and activities are organised and linked electronically (Castells 2010). The networked authoritarian Chinese government, for instance, allows people to use the internet to submit grievances or unjust activities, but the government also monitors who reports or submits the grievances. In China, only specific applications or types of social media platform are allowed to use, and this eases the ruling regime to scrutinise and surveil the users to curb outrageous dissents. The use of these digital communication technologies also induces side effects, one of which is the exposure to the surveillance system (Howard & Hussain 2013), a critical concern for digital activism in the non-democracy ruling systems that appear to have adopted the Chinese authoritarian style of panoptic surveillance.
Cambodia’s online community and activism amid the pandemic
The foregoing theorisation of how digital communication and technologies render risks reverberates Cambodia’s and other countries’ situation during the pandemic. Following the instruction of the government not to mobilise or conduct physical contacts, especially in education and office works, the pandemic has forced millions of Cambodians to subscribe to digital devices and communication platforms. By September 2020, about 67% (11.28 million of about 16 million) of Cambodians have subscribed to Facebook (NapoleonCat, 2020), making this social media site a popular means of communication among Cambodian people, particularly youth. This figure climbed from about 9.73 million subscribers in December 2019, before the pandemic, and it gradually increased to 9.78 million users in January 2020 when the pandemic was not widely spread into the country. As the COVID-19 began to import to the country in early February 2020, the number of subscribers surged rapidly to 10.52 million in March and 10.95 million in May the same year (see Figure 1). Young adults and children are among the new subscribers with the age range between 13-17 (7.8%), 18-24 (31.4%) and 25-34 (47.5%) as of March 2020 (NapoleonCat, 2021). Likewise, the number of cellular smartphone subscribers also increased as these devices are required to access social media: Facebook, Telegram and YouTube. International Telecommunication Union (2020) reports that the number of mobile cellular phone subscribers in Cambodia increased from 19.42 million in 2018 to at least 21.42 million in 2019. Compared to the total population of 16 million, 2019 data suggests that a Cambodian could afford at least two phones (Young 2021a). Given the low quality of education, the higher percentage of young subscribers causes critical concern on data and privacy issue, and the users’ rights. These young adults and children subscribe to the internet and social media for online education, watching Livestream lectures or pre-recorded video teaching. Albeit the supervision of their parents or guardian, we have seen many of these users are addicted to online movies on YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok, online game, and exposed to inappropriate contents, instead of access to teaching materials.
Figure 1: Number of Facebook subscribers during the COVID-19 pandemic
Source: Author’s compilation from NapoleonCat, 2020
Not only did the pandemic compel ordinary Cambodians to go online, but it also affected Cambodia economy (coincided with the partial withdrawal of the EBA programme). Coupled with the decline of the purchase order in the apparel and footwear industries, Cambodia’s GDP growth in 2020 was predicted to be between -1 to -2.9 per cent, and that about 1.76 million jobs were also at risk (World Bank, 2020). The World Bank emphasised that the poverty rate in the country is to increase by 20 per cent. Some factories closed down as they were either affected by the impact of COVID-19 on the global supply chain or by the withdrawal of the EU’s EBA scheme. This raised the affected population’s concerns, especially garment and manufacturing workers, to seek the government’s intervention and remedies. Given the government’s restrictions on physical movement, the ability to lobby the government and concerned stakeholders were limited to online activities. They began to use social media platforms such as Facebook to express the grievances such as indemnities (as the factories were shut-down) and dissatisfaction with the government’s intervention in remedying job loss and cut due to COVID-19. Either made by individuals or media outlets, news on job losses and cuts, people’s dissatisfaction with the government measures was widely observed.
Figure 2: Women rights and arrests report on digital media and news
Source: Author, 2021
As I traced the development of news on women workers on Google Search (see Figure 2), we found that “women rights Cambodia” are often reported by local and international media outlets: the number of its citations has increased from 47,000 times in 2019 to 66,100 time in 2020 (September). While digital and social media become platforms for disgruntled women to frame and amplify their concerns to the public, the endeavour has not been the ideal solution. By querying the term “women workers arrest” in Cambodia, I found that the frequency of the term mentioned in digital media exploded from 7,170 times in 2019 to 43,800 times in 2020 (September). This signified that many women workers or activists were arrested, detained or harassed by the authority. For instance, a women worker, who was a member of a union, was arrested because her post on Facebook criticised her employer, who dismissed 88 workers without following the government of Cambodia’s guidelines and instructions not to cut jobs but reduce workers’ wage government instruction (Kelly & Grant 2020). Following her post, the employer decided to re-employ the workers, and she immediately deleted her post from Facebook, but, still, the employer filed a complaint against her accusing that she created fake news to defame the company and the buyers. The ability to notice who is posting thing or creating news from their smartphone onto Facebook has indicated how effective the government’s surveillance system is. In one instance, the prime minister of Cambodia who has been in power for more than three decades claimed that smartphone allows the government to track and trace anyone effectively (Young 2021b; Young 2021c). He claimed that “If I want to take action against you, we will get [you] within seven hours at the most” (Doyle 2016). Anyone dares to speak against the supreme leaders and or the governance system; the consequence thereof is predictable based on the statement.
Figure 3. Number of people arrested between 2010 and 2020
Source: modified from Young & Heng, 2021
While many Cambodians resorted to online to contain and prevent the spread of the virus, human rights, political activists, environmental and human right defenders, workers and protesters also resort to online activities. As they go online, they submit to a new form of authorities or what I call a “surveillance virus”, which surrounds the users every time. As in Figure 3 above, it appears that the pandemic causes a surge of spurious arrests of political activists, environmental and human rights defenders, workers, and protesters. The increase in the arrest in 2019 was induced by two important reasons. First, authorities arrested those activists who were disgruntled with the dissolution of the opposition party (CNRP) in 2017 prior to the 2018 election. The election allowed the ruling party to take control of all national assembly seats and Hun Sen to remain in power for more than three decades (Young 2021c). Secondly, the arrests were made in response to those who supported the attempt of CNRP leader, Sam Rainsy (who has lived in exile abroad since 2016), to return to Cambodia in 2019. As of September 2020, the number of people arrested by authorities increased to 55, alarming the international communities’ concerns over the country’s tendency to practice authoritarianism amid the pandemic. The arrest is enabled by a form of “networked authoritarianism” as put forward by MacKinnon (2010) in China, where the governed body allowed online grievance submissions, but tackling those critical ones as their comments or grievances undermine the ruling regime’s authority and legitimacy. Cambodian activists’ critiques of how the ruling government handled the pandemic and socio-economic issues, and also other social issues during the crisis have been subject to scrutiny and surveillance, of which social media-mediated-devices are invisible tools of the ruling system.
In this blog, I have demonstrated how COVID-19 has affected not only Cambodia’s economy, but also pushed many Cambodians to go online, subscribing to digital platforms. Digital media platforms are believed to help contain the spread of COVID-19, but such endeavour has apparently compelled the users to be infected by a new form of virus, digital surveillance whose symptom may not be diagnosed or known to the users but the governed body. This form of the digital virus has surrounded users, placing the users in a panoptic prison cell of the surveillance system. The users only realise that they are in the cell when the observers/guards (the government in this instance) take actions against them, as illustrated by women workers and activists in the present study and beyond. This new type of virus has tightened the authoritarian surveillance system to effectively monitor the subject’s antagonistic behaviour, citizens and activists, which may undermine the ruling system’s legitimacy.
 I used key terms to search on Google, and classified the results of the search by year. To ensure that all search results are about Cambodia, “Cambodia” are always added to individual terms when searched on Google, “Women workers arrest Cambodia” for example. These search results are limited to “news” rather than “all” results in the Google search engine.
Castells, M 2010 The rise of the network society: Information age: Economy, society, and culture. West Sussex: Willey-Blackwell.
Young, S 2021c Strategies of authoritarian survival and dissensus in Southeast Asia: Weak Men versus Strongmen. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan.
Zuboff, S 2019 The age of surveillance capitalism: the fight for the future at the new frontier of power. New York: Profile Books.
Sokphea Young obtained his PhD from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and is currently an Honorary Research Fellow at the University College London (UK). His research interests are in the areas of civil society, social media, citizenship, Chinese globalism, and political development in Southeast Asia. His research published in Journal of International Relations and Development, the Chinese Journal of Comparative Law, Journal of Civil Society, Asian Politics & Policies, Asian Journal of Social Science, South East Asia Research, Media Asia, and Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs. He is the author of the forthcoming book entitled “Strategies of authoritarian survival and dissensus in Southeast Asia: Weak Men versus Strongmen” with Palgrave Macmillan (June 2021).
The author received financial support for this article’s research from the European Research Council-funded project entitled PHOTODEMOS (Citizens of photography: The camera and the political Imagination), grant number 695283, at the University College London.
This blog was previously published by SLE Southeast Asia Blog
The Asian Dynamics Initiative and the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, University of Copenhagen (UCPH), invite candidates for a postdoctoral position in Asian Studies. The field of specialism is open, but we are especially interested in candidates working on modern and contemporary East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia in fields across the humanities and social sciences. Successful candidates may be affiliated with an appropriate academic department.
The position is for 24 months, from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2023 or as soon as possible thereafter.
Introduction University of Copenhagen (founded 1479) is a major European research university with 37,500 students and 9,400 staff, located across four campuses in the Danish capital. It is the largest educational institution in Denmark.
Asian Dynamics Initiative (ADI) is a cross-faculty Asia focus at the University of Copenhagen. ADI aims at coordinating existing research and teaching on Asia as well as creating a common platform for new, interdisciplinary Asian studies and research.
The overall purpose of the initiative is to strengthen and develop research and teaching on Asia. ADI organizes interdisciplinary research activities, courses, seminars and workshops covering social, economic, political, cultural, and religious complexities in Asia. ADI is based in the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Social Sciences.
The Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS), founded in 1968, is a well-established research centre, with a particular focus on social science and humanities research on contemporary Asia. NIAS has a broad Nordic mandate and a range of partners around the region, but is administratively part of the University of Copenhagen and hosted by the Department of Political Science.
An Equal Opportunity Workplace The University of Copenhagen is committed in its pursuit of academic excellence to equality of opportunity and to creating an inclusive working environment and therefore encourages all qualified candidates to apply, regardless of personal background, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, ethnicity etc. For more on the diverse working place environment at the University and the University’s participation in the HRS4R HR Excellence in Research, see https://employment.ku.dk/working-at-ucph/eu-charter-for-researchers/
International applicant? The University of Copenhagen offers a broad variety of services for international researchers and accompanying families, including support before and during your relocation and career counselling to expat partners. Please find more information about these services as well as information on entering and working in Denmark here: https://ism.ku.dk/
Contact information Additional information about the position can be obtained from Duncan McCargo, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone +45 353-24628.
Further information about the application procedure is available from HR, e-mail: email@example.com. Please refer to ID number 211-0629/20-2I #1.
How to apply Submit a complete application at our online portal. Click on the “Apply now” icon at the bottom of the page to apply. The documents must be in Adobe PDF or Word.
Your application must be written in English and include the following documents:
Cover letter explaining your motives for applying
Diplomas (master and bachelor)
Two sample publications or conference papers
A 2-page research proposal outlining the project you would carry out under the auspices of the postdoctoral fellowship, and the expected deliverables in terms of publications and grant applications (Submit the document in Adobe PDF or Word format under the section other relevant material).
The closing date for applications is the 8 of January 2021, 23:59 CET.
Applications or enclosures received thereafter will not be considered.
The Asia Research Institute (ARI) of the National University of Singapore (NUS) invites applications from citizens of Asian countries currently enrolled in a full-time MA or PhD degree at a university in an Asian country (except Singapore) for the award of the Asian Graduate Student Fellowship (AGSF). Offered to graduate students working in the humanities and social sciences on Southeast Asian topics, this opportunity will allow the recipients to connect with NUS on a virtual fellowship for a period of six (6) weeks.
Successful candidates can expect the following benefits:
Access to library and computer resources in NUS You can look forward to excellent library access to e-resources at NUS’ main library (http://www.lib.nus.edu.sg/). NUS’ main library has 2 million volumes covering all topics.
Exposure to webinars by various experts in the field
An appointed mentor/advisor on your research topic
An opportunity to present your research paper at the Singapore Graduate Forum on Southeast Asian Studies to an audience of young international scholars and senior Southeast Asia specialists
Intensive English Academic Writing Program (Optional)
A limited number of students will be selected to take part in a two-week long intensive course on English academic writing, to be held online. This program is specifically intended for students who still struggle with writing and/or communicating in academic English, often coming from non-English speaking backgrounds. This program may benefit students who require support in the English language in their academic courses.
REQUIREMENTS & EXPECTATIONS
Successful candidates for the fellowship are expected to submit a draft of their papers by 21 May 2021. This paper will be shared with his/her local mentor in preparation for his/her interactions with her/him. Subsequently, they are required to send in a full-length paper (4,000-5,000 words) by 23 June 2021, and make a presentation on their work at the 16th Singapore Graduate Forum on Southeast Asian Studies on 12-16 July 2021.
Please note that the paper must be based on your own work, and only previously unpublished papers or those not already presented elsewhere can be accepted.
When I say that dictators are dumb, I do not mean to suggest that they do not know how to dictate the way their citizens live or society function. Dictators can be very smart people with high IQ scores. But they tend to become dumb over time because of their tendency to err on the side of relying on too much force rather than too little of it and just do not know when to stop or how to call it quits.
We may need to give dictators a lot of credit for behaving the way they do, and for holding to power when no one else is willing or able to do the same. World history is filled with dictators, the first of whom came to power in Rome around 510 B.C. Until Julius Caesar became dictator for life, however, most dictators left office when their tasks given to them during emergencies were completed.
Oftentimes, dictators’ reigns of terror end tragically. Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C. Napoleon Bonaparte of France has been considered by historians to be the first modern dictator. He enjoyed popularity because he did some good things for his country, such as balancing the budget, reforming state institutions, and writing the Civil Code that laid the foundation of France’s current civil law. Sadly, he did not seem to know when to stop or call its quits. In 1804, he crowned himself emperor, established a network of spies to tighten his control over the government and the press, and pursued his political ambition by invading other countries across Europe. He could not be stopped until Great Britain, Prussia, Spain and Portugal surrounded his empire and when his generals rebelled against him. He was forced to give up his throne and was exiled for good in 1815, after a brief return to power.
More recent dictators also did not know when to call it quits until they were removed from power by force or execution. Adolf Hitler started WWII, was defeated by the Allied Powers and then committed suicide. His ally, Fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, was shot to death and stoned. Pol Pot of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror was known as Brother Number One but ended up as Brother Number Zero. His regime kept slaughtering innocent people and many of his party’s members, but was then driven out of power and eventually arrested by those who served under him. His life was put to an end. Saddam Hussein of Iraq was executed after he had been found in a muddy foxhole. More can be said about Gadhafi of Libya whose fate was sealed after NATO destroyed his armed loyalists.
Health-related death can be another cause of dictators’ demise. The first two Soviet dictators, Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin, died after strokes. Mao Zedong of China died at the age of 82, after a heart attack more severe than the previous ones. Fidel Castro of Cuba was replaced by his younger brother because of his worsening health. Dictators do not seem to enjoy good health – and a happy life!
With that said, it is not easy to get rid of dictators because they do not know when to stop until their defeat or death stops their reign of terror. This fact further suggests that they are usually dumb because they think they have no choice but to fight to the death because of their insecurity, if not insanity. Dictators usually come to power amidst chaos and turmoil or violence and war, rely on terror and intimidation to maintain their power bases, instead of building democratic and rule-of-law institutions to enhance their legitimacy. Sadly, they live in fear of subversion, retribution, and assassination.
This insight further explains why any efforts to bring them to justice are likely to fail if doing so without any preponderant power to defeat them decisively. Because of their paranoia and insecurity, they usually develop the strategy of ‘preemptive strike’ against any foes (real or perceived) before any threat to their survival grows stronger. The best counter-strategy for anyone to adopt when not having the level of hard power that can overwhelm that of the dictator also would not be one based on a violent threat to him. Dictators do not like threats, and they balance against them. Economic sanctions, however smart they may be, are more likely to harm civilian populations more than they hurt dictators. Appeasement does not work either because this strategy tends to embolden dictators. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement did not work with Hitler after he had consolidated power in the 1930s, though it might have worked in the 1920s when Germany was weak following WWI.
The only viable strategy when dealing with dictators in our globalized world is one that assures their security through power-sharing arrangements or credible amnesty. Dictators believe they will lose everything if they lose power. They have no reason to trust any promise that any loss of power would still keep them safe and secure. It is worth remembering that dictators are dumb because they do not know when to stop, but they can still outsmart their opponents when their survival is under threat and can stay in power for a very long time. The dictatorship of North Korea has proved this point.
Sorpong Peouis Full Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University and a member of the Yeates School of Graduate Studies. He was formerly Chair of the Department of Political Science, University of Winnipeg (Manitoba), and Chair of the Advisory and Recruitment Committee for The Manitoba Chair of Global Governance Studies – a joint program between the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. His major books include Human Security Studies: Theories, Methods and Themes (World Scientific and Imperial College Press, 2014); Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific (Praeger 2010), Human Security in East Asia: Challenges for Collaborative Action, ed. (Routledge 2008), International Democracy Assistance for Peacebuilding: Cambodia and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan 2007), Intervention and Change in Cambodia: Toward Democracy (St. Martin’s Press, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and Silkworms, 2001); and Conflict Neutralization in the Cambodia War: From Battlefield to Ballot-box (Oxford University Press, 1997).
I have enjoyed reading this new blog for a while. As a contribution to the blog, I am writing to share my flight experience from the UK (London) to Southeast Asia (Cambodia) via Singapore. I hope this experience is worth sharing to readers who wish to fly from the UK or Europe Cambodia. In this journey, I will also compare how the UK or probably even the whole EU, handle travellers to contain COVID-19 at London Heathrow Airport with Southeast Asian nations (Singapore, Cambodia). After experiencing about nine months lockdown and living in a square room and coping with stress, last month, I decided to travel to Cambodia, my home country, as I see COVID-19 in the country was not much worse compared to the UK, between 16,000-19,000 cases per day. However, the recent outbreak in Cambodia has disappointed my plan, but I have to fly because I already paid for the airfare.
Almost two months ago, before flying or choosing airlines, I did some researches and asked friends who had experience of a long-haul flight (up to 15 hours in total to exclude layover). I chose Singapore Airline. There are flights via South Korea, Thailand, and Japan, but I chose Singapore Air in term of airfare, service and safety measures.
A month before my departure, I prepared 4 3M/N95 masks (1: for inflight, 1: transit, 1: another flight, and 1 when you landed in Cambodia), a transparent face shield, hand sanitiser jells, cough sweets, and diarrhoea and flu tablets. I like cough sweet the most, even I am healthy, but it is very dehydrated on 13 hours flight from London to Singapore. I took immune pills two weeks before the flight to boost my immune system. I BELIEVE THIS IS ESSENTIAL EVEN YOU DO NOT TRAVEL BY AIRE. I STRONGLY RECOMMENDED N95 Mask as in the photo. Unlike other masks, this one is much convenient because when you speak your lips will not touch the mask layers. Imagine 13 hours flight, you will smell YOUR OWN MOUTH and get sick by that.
To the Airport. Compared to public transportation: buses and underground trains, I would spend some money on a private taxi, or Uber to be safe. Travel alone is better than with unknown herds using public transpiration services. You may know that the spike of COVID cases in the UK is linked to public transportations. London underground is a crowded since they do not have proper seat arrangement, social distancing and space between travellers to avoid close contact.
At London Heathrow. I arrived at the airport about 2.5 hours before the flight. At Terminal 2, there was no standard social distancing arrangement besides queueing from the passenger drop off section to the check-in counters. Not many cared about social distancing, 2 or 1.5 meters apart from each other, even FACE COVER (they called it that, not a mask; I FOUND FACE COVER unhelpful) is compulsory inside the terminal. At the check-in counter, I was asked to present a health certificate: COVID-19-free. I was exempted since I was travelling to my home country (I will explain that it is not helpful at all). After checking in, I went through a security check, and again there was no proper arrangement beside lining, not even 1.5 meters apart. THIS MIGHT BE THE CASE WHY THE TRANSMISSION RATE IN THE UK or EU increased sharply after first or second waves or lockdown.
Inside Heathrow’s departure terminal: Shops are opening, and as you know, BLACK FRIDAY remains, and you can still enjoy duty-free shopping. Discount everywhere. You can kill time and wander around shopping, and some of them do not respect social distancing.
Before boarding: I had temperature checked by Singapore Airline staff and was called by our row and seat number to board the flight, to avoid the crowd. Before entering the plane, each of us gets a health kit bag containing a hand sanitiser, a mask, a wipe, and a bottle of water.
In the plane: we were arranged to sit with empty seat/ space in between seats we were assign (unless you know each other you can chose to seat together). IT IS AN EXCELLENT IDEA, and I FELT SAFE instead of sitting next to an unknown person (I MET a CAMBODIAN STUDENT FROM AUSTRALIA said her flight from Brisbane to Singapore arranged seat the same mine). ONE IMPORTANT NOTE is that if you could check online and select your preferred seats would be great. I DID SELECT SEAT in advance. I would recommend those at the EXIT AREA, LAST ROW, and ROW against the laboratory seats to avoid being SURROUNDED. If you cannot do that, you might be lucky to sit next to those EU/UK citizens who have COVID-19-free certificate. I WOULD FEEL SAFE TO SIT NEARBY THESE FOREIGNERS WHO HAD TEST NEGATIVE to board the flight. Test negative for COVID-19 is a must to travel to another country that is not your home.
Layover in Singapore. It was very unfortunate that I had 8 hours of layover in Singapore. All passengers were disembarked row by row, about 3-5 rows at a time. Those who transited at Changi Airport were well directed by a guide to the transit hall. TEMPERATURE WAS TAKEN as soon as you disembark, and BEFORE ENTERING THE transit HALL. Wrist bands were given to identify us as layover passengers. There, we were not allowed to move around like in London. If you want to eat and shop, you need to order online (there is a banner instructing how to do so). Duty-free shopping need to be placed at least 8 or 12 hours in advance. I THINK THIS IS WHY SINGAPORE COULD CONTAIN COVID-19 TRANSMISSION and or imported CASES. To avoid a close contact with other passengers, I located myself somewhere at the corner of the hall.
SINGAPORE-CAMBODIA: Before boarding, we were again asked to queue about 10-20 passengers each line with at least 1 m apart. They rechecked our temperature. A number of Cambodian flocks flown (mostly) from Malaysia joined us. The guide/staff navigated and led group by group to the security check. AGAIN, We were given health kit as we board. But, UPON BOARDING I WAS DISAPPOINTED THAT THE AIRLINE (Silk Air, a regional subsidiary of Singapore Airlines) did not follow the long-haul flight standard mentioned above. All seats were occupied except three rows left empty as the flight attendant told me that they reserved for quarantine or in case if anyone gets sick they would isolate him or her there.I AM DISAPPOINTED that we were asked to stay apart during the transit but HAD TO PACK US TOGETHER in a tinny Airplane. EVEN MASKS are still compulsory, but we sit close to each other. From HERE YOU DO NOY TRUST your CAMBODIAN FELLOWS since, like me, THEY DIDN’T COVID-19-Free certificate. IT seems Singapore does not care when they send travellers out of their country. THIS MIGHT BE THE CAUSE of COVID-19 transmission and importing CASES to CAMBODIA. The Government of Cambodia should instruct incoming flights to follow space inside the plane.
FOOD dining is the most CONTAGIOUS time in this small flight. When foods and drinks were served, everyone removed masks and dug in. THIS IS a risky time, but I DID NOT EAT UNTIL the nearby passengers ate. BUT, I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO SIT NEXT TO A FOREIGNER. AS I TOLD YOU BEFORE, THEY WERE ONCE TESTED NEGATIVE up to 72 hours before boarding the flight.
LANDING in PHNOM PENH. Again, DISAPPOINTED since passengers compete to get out of the plane, and the cabin crews did not advise them to disembark row by row like the long-haul flight. NO SOCIAL DISTANCING at all.
IMMIGRATION CHECK and COVID-19 TESTING. I think many have written on this aspect, I should not spend more time on this. We had to fill out health status and condition and presented to the Health Officer to inspect. AGAIN, WE NEED TO line up, and there was no social distancing practice (by passengers). YOU KNOW THAT THE AIRPORT IS SMALL; it cannot follow Singapore. From there you will be given a form to fill out your choice of QUARANTINE ACCOMMODATIONs: Free and private hotel. In the form, you must include your personal info, and contact information (phone and e-mail). As I once heard about the condition of free accommodation, I CHOSE HOTEL as I will need to work during this period. AS I SAID BEFORE, it is a must now that all passengers are required to quarantine 14 days at the hotel and the free accommodation, not two days to get the test result and check out to quarantine yourself at home.
I proceeded to collect my baggage and presented the health information form to the doctors who interviewed where about I would stay after the quarantine period (part of the contact tracing). From there, samples were taken from your mouth and noise. You will be asked to remove your face mask. Upon the samples were taken, you must wear you mask immediately as I believe it is where people were asked unmask; it can be a CONTAGIOUS area. DON’T be scared, ALL DOCTORS and OFFICERs were equipped with Personal Protection Equipment’s (PPE).
Transferring to the hotel was complicated as well. AGAIN, NO SOCIAL DISTANCING AT ALL. It was confusing as not many officers could speak English well. Some foreigners joined different queues: hotel and free accommodation. It took about 2 hours to get ready on the bus to the hotel. Both foreigners and Khmer passengers were frustrated with the arrangement. I THINK IT IS TYPICAL BUSINESS AS USUAL IN THIS COUNTRY.
I will tell you more how I felt when I was transferred to the hotel. It is again a typical thing. Stay tuned!
If you have questions, please comment and I will respond.
RLS Southeast Asia – Hanoi Office is calling for project concept notes for the period from 2021 – 2023!!!!!
Each organization can submit maximum two project concept notes. Projects can be, but are not limited to conferences, policy studies, dialogues, workshops, trainings, awareness raising events, development of communication material, educational art work and advocacy activities. Projects should contribute to our three components (as in the picture) and focus on specific themes.
Project duration: Project can be implemented in 1 year, 2 years or 3 years during the period from 2021 – 2023.
Project value: Single activity projects should not exceed 30,000 EUR /project/year Multiple activity projects should not exceed 45.000 EUR/project/year For applicants, who don’t have any experience working with RLS, we just accept 1-year project concept notes with a maximum amount of 20,000 EUR.
Requirements for applicantsState agencies, research institutes, academic institutions, and not-for profit organizations:• Based in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand• Have legal status for implementation of projects with above topics.
Criteria for selection:
1. Relevance with our thematic focus and political background.
2. Relevant experiences and capacity of applicants.
3. Proven profile to address social and ecological issues in lower Mekong region.
4. Engagement of political actors in the project implementation.
5. Budget efficiency and effectiveness.
Application procedure and deadline:-Interested organizations are invited to submit concept notes in one file and pdf format (maximum 02) to Mr. Nguyen Tung (Nguyen.Tung@rosalux.org) and Ms. Hoang Tra My, RLS Project Manager (TraMy.Hoang@rosalux.org) latest by 10.01.2021.
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