Below is a description of Steven’s ongoing research projects. The first (I) is his Ph.D dissertation on recent changes and variations in South Korean national identity. The second (II) describes an individual and collaborative project with colleagues from the Sino-NK community on contemporary Korean ethnic and national identity. The third (III) regards his work with the Innovation Policy Lab at the University of Toronto on the digital economy and ICT innovation in Canada.

I. Becoming South Korean: What the Resocialization of North Korean Migrants in South Korea Tells Us About Contemporary South Korean National Identity

South Korea has long promoted a sense of ethnic and cultural homogeneity, but the macro economic and political changes and a substantial increase in the numbers of immigrants, both non-ethnic Koreans and ethnic Koreans from abroad, have altered the cultural and demographic makeup of the country and precipitated a new discourse on Korean nationhood and belonging. Research efforts aimed at investigating the consequences and implications of these changes have produced vital research contributions, but too little is known about what these newcomers think, and what their re-socialization experiences can tell us about contemporary national identity in South Korea.

Using newly collected survey data from 350+ North Korean migrants resettled in South Korea, this research examines the salience of ethnocultural components to ethnic Korean migrants’ national identity and their attitudes towards other migrants. Accordingly, this research asks: Do the national identities of Korean migrants change upon resettlement? How much does prior experience matter? Do migrants learn from their new environment, or do they resist change? This research considers the implications of the research findings for our understanding of contemporary South Korean national identity, especially the boundaries between various social groups in society, barriers to social integration, and the future of the broader national community in the Republic of Korea.

Forthcoming, Winter 2018.

II. Reproducing Contested Identities and Social Structures on the Korean Peninsula

Reproducing Contested Identities and Social Structures on the Korean Peninsula is an in-depth investigation into Korean nationalisms and mechanisms of national identity construction among resettled North Korean defectors (living in South Korea), South Koreans, and ethnic Koreans living in China. It incorporates survey- and interview-based research and facilitates the creation of a database of responses on the formation of national identity within the groups identified. The database will be used for collaborative and individual research outputs.

Selection of preliminary findings and early publications:


2014. “How Authoritarian Regimes Maintain Domain Consensus: North Korea’s Information Strategies in the Kim Jong-un Era,” with Adam Cathcart and Christopher Green, Review of Korean Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2: 145-178.

2014. “South Korea and a New Nationalism in an Era of Strength and Prosperity,” with Karl Friedhoff, Stanford Journal of East Asian Studies, Vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 121-129.


2016. “Kim Jong-un and the Practice of Songun Politics,” with Christopher Green and Adam Cathcart, Change and Continuity in North Korean Politics, Adam Cathcart et al. (eds.) (Routledge, 2016).

2016. “The Whisper in the Ear: Re-defector Press Conference as Information Management Tool,” in On Korea: Volume 8 (Korean Economic Institute, 2016).


2016. “From hero to zero: North Korea’s failure in Yanbian,” with Christopher Green, NK News Pro, June 14.

2015. “The Whisper in the Ear: Re-defector Press Conference as Information Management Tool,” with Christopher Green and Brian Gleason, Korean Economic Institute, March 12.


2013. South Korea and a New Nationalism in an Era of Strength and Prosperity,”with Karl Friedhoff, CSIS PacNet #75, October 7.

III.  Creating Digital Opportunity

The Innovation Policy Lab, in association with lead partner, the Canadian International Council, have established a new research partnership to produce the knowledge required to move forward. The Research Partnership on the Digital Economy, including members from 16 universities and 12 partner organizations, are working together with the goal of situating Canada’s digital opportunity in a global context. This will encourage policymakers to strengthen Canada’s international competitiveness and contribute to a broader public debate throughout the country with regard to what kind of political economy the country wants to promote moving forward.

The current project that Steven is working on revolves around two primary research questions: What are Canada’s competitive strengths in global production networks and global innovation networks and what factors will ensure the future success of Canadian firms? And: What is the role of local conditions, including local educational and labour market institutions, in supporting the global competitiveness of digital firms in Canada? To date, more than 100 interviews with CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs have been conducted in the Greater Toronto Area. Data analysis and writing is currently in progress.


2016. “Toronto’s ICT/Fintech Firms in Global Context,” presentation at CDO Partnership Meeting in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, April 25-27.

2015. Current State of the Financial Technology Innovation Ecosystem in the Toronto Region, Innovation Policy Lab, University of Toronto.

2015. David Berman, “Toronto falling behind in fintech industry, report argues,” Globe and Mail, November 5.

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