Wooyun Jo

PhD on Korea and Great Powers – the Politics of a Divided Peninsula

What is the title and outline of your project?

The title of my doctoral thesis is ‘Korea and Great Powers – the Politics of a Divided Peninsula.’ My thesis studies alliance and great power politics, with a major focus on the relationship between a smaller ally and a great power patron state. I provide three case studies of the Republic of Korea-the United States Alliance.

Why did you decide to undertake a PhD in your area?

I was an army officer in the South Korean Army, stationed very near the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), a border between two Koreas. One day, I was completing the mission in my observation post, staring at North Korean soldiers aggressively targeting my team; the question came to me: why should Koreans live under such an eternal conflict? This question followed me for a very long time during military service; therefore, I decided to undertake a PhD to answer the question I got in DMZ.

What were you doing before you started your PhD?

I was an artillery officer in the South Korean Army. I served as a Forward Observation Officer (FO), and in this capacity, I collected intelligence and information near the border to accurately direct the fire of an artillery unit from a forward position. My grandfather fought against Communism during the Korean War, and my father also served in the military. This family heritage led me to become an army officer.

How does studying a PhD differ from PG/UG study?

I would say that the most different thing is the curriculum. For PG/UG study, you have a specific timeline and curricula to follow to complete the degree. Still, for PhD, everything is designed by a researcher (with the help of supervisors). Of course, this sense of independence can be a pressure, but managing your own time and research is fantastic.

What do you enjoy most about studying a PhD?

I am the Columbus of this research adventure. I love exploring new continents of knowledge, which I can touch before others! This is the greatest joy of studying for a PhD.

What advice would you give to someone considering a PhD at Loughborough?

I can assure you that Loughborough University provides the utmost support to its PhD students. The University generously supported my fieldwork in Virginia, Missouri, Washington D.C., and Seoul! My strong advice is to come and join this vibrant research community! You will find yourself as a part of the Loughborough family, and the University will enormously support your success.

What do you think about the facilities for postgraduates at Loughborough?

Loughborough University provides fantastic facilities for researchers. Our department recently moved to a renovated building with a new desk, chair and computer. These facilities truly help me focus on my research.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I am still navigating this adventure and do not know where I will arrive at the end. However, I endeavour to develop my academic career to teach students and research more about Alliance Politics and Great Power Politics.