“Comparative Regional Research”: Exploring the Divisions and Unities of Asian Identities in “The Asian Era”

Research Aims

While 21st century Asia has developed politically and economically, the realities of Asia’s regions are being restructured. A new approach to Asian identities is desperately needed, one that goes beyond the Western perspective of the ‘Orient’ and traditional empires of civilization, and instead fits with the Asian Era, looking anew through Asian eyes.

Exchange links within New Asia continue to expand, and iterative processes of combination and division are occurring both within and between regions. Going beyond epistemological and methodological perspectives focused on nation-states, we aim to develop epistemology, theory, and methodology through expanding the regional approach to one centered on ‘Mega-Asia and Asia(s)’.

The Comparative Regional Research Cluster is composed through a collaboration among five Regional Centers within the Seoul National University Asia Center and several other external major research institutes. We aim to explore frameworks for regional comparative research of New Asia, and combine insights from the humanities and analyses from the social sciences to lead the creation of future-oriented regional knowledge and research methodologies.

Research Team
  • Dr. Suhong Chae(Prof. in Anthropology at SNU, Affiliated Researcher, Cluster Head)
  • Dr. Byung-Joon Kim(Prof. in Asian History at SNU, Affiliated Researcher)
  • Dr. Jung Hoon Lee(Prof. in Chinese Modern Literature at SNU, Affiliated Researcher)
  • Dr. Heonik Kwon(HK Professor, Social Anthropology)
  • Dr. Gi Yeon Koo(HK Research Professor, Anthropology)
  • Dr. Haenam PARK(HK Research Professor, Sociology)
  • Dr. Dae-yeong Youn(HK Research Professor, History)
  • Dr. Myung Moo Lee(HK Research Professor, Business Administration)
Cluster Research Publications
Volume  1. Imagining Asis: Closing and Opening 

This book employs historical and ideological/epistemological methodologies to examine the extent to which Asia in the traditional era has expanded as an historical entity. First, the historical approach begins with the task of identifying the historical communities that existed in each region by highlighting the political relationships that connected states in each region of Asia in the traditional era with a particular emphasis on the relationships between the empire as a central state and the polities of its hinterlands—in other words, the “closed world” of Asia. Next, the epistemological approach refers to the work of examining perceptions of the relationships between communities that existed in each region and how they imagined the world beyond. This is an open world that transcends the real world. The combination of these approaches allows for a comparison of the “real Asia” and an imagined Asia and further lays out a historical and conceptual foundation for defining “Asia.”

This volume can be divided into three major themes. The first theme examines the self-identity of communities from past to present. The second theme looks at how communities perceive the world around them. Finally, the third examines imaginations of how communities and the world around them are ordered. The first theme focuses on identifying traditions passed down from the past and the identities derived from them, while the second and third themes relate to contemporary perceptions of others.



  • Ancient and Medieval Chinese Empire and East Asian Order, Byeong-Joon Kim (Department of East Asian History, Seoul National University)
  • The Rise of the Ming Empire and the International Order of East Asia, Beomjin Gu (Department of East Asian History, Seoul National University)
  • Eastern Eurasian and Chinese Order from 1st Century BC to AD 4th century, Joohyun Lee (Department of History, Dong-A University)
  • The Global Order of the Mongolian Empire and 13-14th Century Eurasia, Seokhwan Kim (Department of East Asian History, Seoul National University)
  • The World of 16th century Japan—Perspectives of Divine and Remote Lands, Sucheol Bak (Department of East Asian History, Seoul National University)
  • Southeastern China and Maritime Order from the 15th-18th Centuries, Yeongheon Jo (Department of History Education, Korea University)
  • Penghu and Taiwan in the Fluctuating East Asian Maritime Order of the 16th-17th Centuries, Gyeongsu Chae (Department of East Asian History, Seoul National University)
  • East Asia and the World from the 16th -19th Centuries: Migration, Labor, and Products, Jina Gang (Department of History, Hanyang University)
  • Portraits of Firangi: The Western Other Drawn by India, Hawon Gu (Department of Asian Languages and Civilization, Seoul National University)
  • The Rise of the Ottoman Empire and Its Identity, Hiroyuki Ogasawara (Center for Humanities Research, Kyushu University)
Volume 2.  Regional Change and Imagination in 20th Century Asia

This book aims to investigate trends of regional change through the lens of the formation of Asian regional identities and cooperation and conflict within the context of colonization, decolonization, and modernization—and the return of tradition as a resistance to it—as well as war and revolution. 20th-century Asia experienced diverse regional changes, such as colonization by foreign powers, national independence, the Cold War and local wars. On the other hand, the 21st century has seen the rise of regional cooperation programs such as ASEAN, SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and trade agreements like RCEP that promote regional integration beyond national boundaries. This book attempts to examine and reflect on the regional fluidity that transcends national boundaries in Asia through the eras of empires, imperialism, and the Cold War since the 20th century through comprehensive historical, social, and cultural perspectives.

In this book, we attempt to reflect on the various perceptions and imaginations that recall Asia in the 20th century and reconsider the processes of formation of nation-states in Asia, such as Japan, China, and Vietnam, which were established in the context of regional divisions between East Asia, Eurasia, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and West Asia, as well as opposition to the world order of empires and imperialism. By superimposing local, regional, and global perspectives of regional formation in Asia, this volume will provide comparative analyses of how “Asia” is represented, defined, and perceived through the lens of the colonial experience in contemporary history.



  • Regional Change and Imagination in the 20th Century Asia: Beyond Empires, Imperialism, and the Cold War (keynote), Yeongseo Baek (Emeritus Professor of History, Yonsei University)
  • Decolonization, Division, and War: Multilayered Formation of 20th-Century South Asia, Oksun Lee (India Research Center)
  • The Beginning of the Oil Era and the Emergence of the “Middle East” in World History, Dalseung Yu (Iran Languages Department, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies)
  • The Soviet Union and the Regional Crystallization of Central Asia: Historical Convergence and Divergence, Sejin Jeong (Asia Pacific Research Center, Hanyang University)
  • Alexander Dugin and the Rise of Russian Eurasianism, Jinseok Choi (School of Liberal Arts, Seoul National University of Science and Technology)
  • Vietnam’s Independence Movement and Asian Coalitions, Dae-yeong Youn (HK Research Professor, SNUAC_HK)
  • Asian Representations of Asia: The Rupture of East Asian Imperialist Perceptions of Space and Discourses of Civilization in the Early 20th Century, Jin Cheon
  • Asia Redrawn by Imperial Japan: Stillbirth of the East Asian Collective Daydream, Jonguk Hong (Institute of Humanities, Seoul National University)
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the Post-Rises Era: The New Silk Road and the Appropriation of Perceptions of Nomadic Space, Jiun Baek (The Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, Seoul National University)
  • The South Korea Blueprint of 21st Century Asia: From the Eurasia Initiative to the New South/North Strategy, Jung Hoon Lee (Department of Chinese Language and Literature, Seoul National University)
Volume 3. Formation and Differentiation of Asian Identities in the post-Cold War Era

This book examines regional identities in 21st century Asia through socio-cultural, political, and economic lenses. As the 21st century has been described as the “Asian century” and the “Asian era,” “Asia” is receiving a lot of attention not only from the world but also from within the region. Asian regional identities are explored by examining the spatial localization of Asia and the local practices of actors in the processes of political and economic change as well as migration and industrialization. By combining a political and economic approach within particular socio-cultural contexts and examining the simultaneous processes of regionalization and globalization during the post-Cold War era, this volume systematically interrogates current reflections of Asia as it is newly formed and differentiated.

This volume can be divided into three parts. First, the concepts of “Asianization of Asia” and global value chain are employed to generally present the dynamics of recently formed and differentiated Asian regional identities. Next, we explore the politics of regional identities of Asia (and Asian people) that are expressed in the processes of migration and industrialization and regional practice. The final part reviews how complex aspects of global citizenships and Asian identities often compete and are negotiated in the contexts of industrialization and globalization. Through these perspectives, we examine the socio-cultural contexts in which regional identities of “Asia” are newly formed and differentiated.



  • The Asianization of Asia: Theoretical and Methodological Implications, Gyeongseop Jang (Department of Sociology, Seoul National University)
  • The Reconstruction and Differentiation of Regional Identities under the Global Value Chain (GVC), Hyeonji Gwan (Department of Sociology, Seoul National University)
  • The Industrialization of Asia and Localization Strategies of South Korean and Chinese Firms, Jongseok Yoon (HK Research Professor, SNUAC_HK)
  • The Diasporic Character and Transnational Networks of South Asian Migrant Workers in the Gulf Region, Gyeonghak Kim (Department of Cultural Anthropology and Archaeology, Chonnam National University)
  • Industrialization, Migrant Labor, and Changing Regional Identities in East Asia: Examples from South Korea and Vietnam, Suhong Chae (Department of Anthropology, Seoul National University)
  • Competing Global Identities through Iran’s Satellite Media Channels, Gi Yeon Koo (HK Research Professor, SNUAC_HK)
  • The Industrialization of Japan and Changing Conceptions of the Global: Policies to Foster Global Citizens and Global Talent, Gyeongmin Bak (Department of Anthropology, Seoul National University)
  • The Identity of Singapore’s High-Skilled Migrants: Between Cosmopolitan and Asian Identities, Siyeon Im (Korean National Commission for UNESCO)
  • Transnational Networks and Multi-layered Identities of the Jews of Central Asia, Ayeong Choi (SNUAC)