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Professor Mankwon Kim of the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies is Selected by the Ministry of Education for Outstanding Achieve

2023-02-17 Academic

“Alternative Communities in Humanities: Sharing and Connection, Sustainable Utopia Research”

Professor Mankwon Kim of the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies is involved in the University Focused Research Institute project, which was selected as one of the 50 outstanding achievements in academic and research support projects by the Ministry of Education. The Center has been chosen for the second year in a row following Professor Jae-in Kim’s selection last year. Professor Mankwon Kim conducted the Alternative Community in Humanities: Sharing and Connection, Sustainable Utopia Research with the support of the University Key Research Institute Project. Based on this research, Professor Kim authored a popular academic book titled A New Poverty Is Coming, which was widely recognized for its excellence.

The humanities research on alternative communities was originally planned in two stages, and the first stage has now been completed. Professor Kim said, “The Korean community, which tends to be constantly divisive, is the background of this research. I began by imagining how a community could be viable in bridging division and conflict while promoting sharing and connection.” The vision of alternative community, which is the core of the study, is a concept proposed by the Center to move forward from the conventional community that has fallen into a vicious cycle of inequality, conflict, hatred, and discrimination. Professor Kim said, “There is no clear definition of an alternative community. It is a relative concept that can change depending on the individual's point of view of the existing community. In order to understand the alternative community, we first need to know about the conventional, mainstream community.”

The Center for Cross-Cultural Studies viewed the conventional community as a “community without a community.” Professor Kim said, “Many existing communities have a fa?ade of community, but if you would look inside, there is only division and conflict, and the communal function of reconciliation and coexistence has been lost.” In response, the Center collected examples of alternative communities around the world for the future utopia, simultaneously studying examples of successful alternative communities and unsuccessful cases. In a situation where divisions and conflicts are intensifying, the cause of community failure was explored. He added, “It is a process to find a better alternative by identifying the cause of the community’s failure and posing it as a lesson for future. We must always hope and work for a community that congeals together despite divisions and conflicts.”

His book A New Poverty is Coming explores the polarization caused by digital information technology. While information technology has revolutionized society as a whole, it has also created a polarization in which the vast majority of wealth and power is concentrated on a few. Professor Kim said, “The essence of the ‘new poverty’ is poverty in an era of abundance. This is largely due to the development of information technology.”

Given the current social landscape of failed communities, exacerbated by deepening polarization and inequality, the dream of building a utopia seems as unlikely as it is daunting. Nevertheless, Professor Kim still dreams of realizing utopia. “Every constructed utopia becomes a reality that must be overcome someday, as there always are inherent absurdity and dissonance built into all systems,” he said. “Utopia does not mean an ideal world, but rather an attitude of belief and practice that a better world is possible. We believe that our society can change for the better and that we are taking a step forward.” He and the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies are planning to embark on the second stage of alternative community in humanities research. Professor Kim expressed his hope, saying, “I would like to see academic popular books published for many to read in the second phase of the study, so that the results of our research can positively affect the lives of ordinary people.”

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