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(Alternate title: PS2238 – Japan and South Korea being wary of China, who is economically critical but militarily dominant, who has a long-running frozen conflict with Taiwan, who is reliant on the U.S for its security guarantees, who is trying to keep everyone on in the region together and not doing anything stupid, with the exception of North Korea, who is in danger of biting the hand that feeds it. It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an arm).
Being advised that an introductory module was not representative of higher level modules, I took this module in my first semester as well to get a taste of what a ‘real’ PS module felt like. It was an interesting experience, one quite different from the PS1101E module. That said, I also was interested in China, North & South Korea as well as Japan, so the content was something that attracted me to the module.
What I expected
I had been advised (in good faith) by some seniors who had taken this module and dropped it shortly of their dislike for the lecturer’s style. They mentioned little about the content though (for they had not progressed far), so I thought it would be about the international relations of countries in Northeast Asia, for that was the region specified in the title.
What I got
It being classified under the International Relations category, it was definitely about the international relations of countries in Northeast Asia. One learns about China, both Koreas, Japan as well as Taiwan, with the U.S also factoring in despite not being physically located in the region.
Prof. Han, who was both my lecturer and tutor, did admirably in conducting the lecture. Although initially apprehensive based on afore-mentioned advice, I felt after a couple of lectures that there was nothing objectively bad about her style of lecturing. It was both structured and detailed, which is perhaps not the cup of tea for those who later dropped the module. But it worked fine for me, and I found the lectures quite helpful when absorbing the course content.
Webcasting was not practiced for this module, although lecture slides were uploaded before/after the lecture.
[Course Material?] Slides and PDF readings.
Assessment & Workload
One is assessed as follows:
- Tutorial participation.
- Research paper of 7 pages (including citations in endnotes, but excludes bibliography). Topic is decided by the student and advised by the tutor.
- Finals at the end of the semester.
The tutorial class I was in was unfortunately punctuated more by people typing notes than contributing to the discussion despite them knowing that they would be graded for it and the Prof reminding them of the very same fact. Still, it made it easier for approximately five people in a group of 25 to 28 students to participate in tutorials, so perhaps there was a silver lining to the relative lack of tutorial discussion after all.
The workload consists mostly of reading (for lecture/tutorial prep) and research (for the research paper), as an outline first has to be submitted for vetting by the tutor before one can commence on their paper. The readings can be a tad heavy at times in terms of content depth, but at three readings per week, one should not be overwhelmed. Perhaps three hours per week would be sufficient to complete the readings with limited notation.
Unfortunately, my research paper was not well written (it being my first academic paper), and I ended up with a flat B for it. Given that tutorial participation was not that heavily weighted, I was looking at a 90% chance of a B and a 10% chance of a B+ if I did well (and others did poorly) in the semester finals.
Alas, I was unable to sufficiently distinguish myself in the semester finals, and ended up with a flat B.
Conclusion & Tips
Although the overall grade received was quite poor, it is not reflective of how much I learned during the module itself. Delving into several intriguing topics of an appreciable depth, the module also included a quick crash course for those new to the paradigms used within International Relations, which is most helpful for some that have skipped the PS1101E module.
If one prefers the more structured (if at times dry) style of lecturing, this module will not disappoint (assuming, of course, that it is taught by the same lecturer). The content is also fairly interesting, although those that take this module along with other content-heavy modules may be slightly pressed for time on a weekly basis.
- Do seek out the tutor or Prof for consultation on the research paper (in its earlier iteration as the outline), for it forms a substantial portion of your overall grade, and they can advise you if your research topic may be too ambitious for one’s current caliber. They can also be extremely helpful in recommending particular articles for you to read (and cite) if it is within their field of knowledge.
- Do not procrastinate on the research paper, for it is more difficult to reduce words that one has typed compared to simply slamming out something and submitting it. An earlier submission also means more time to prepare notes for the finals.
- Lecture slides are quite detailed, and more confident/panicky students may find them sufficient for finals revision purposes.