Studying sea powers in Tokyo: Dongkeun Lee wins Japan Foundation Japanese Studies Fellowship

Dongkeun Lee

In the ever-evolving landscape of geopolitical tensions, one PhD Candidate stands out for his groundbreaking research on comparative sea power studies in the Indo-Pacific. Meet Dongkeun Lee, a driven PhD candidate whose work and research focus have earned him the 2024-2025 Japan Foundation Japanese Studies Fellowship. The PhD Candidate from the Strategic and Defence Study Centre (SDSC), Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs will head to Tokyo to conduct the research from September to December 2024.

Dongkeun’s PhD research focuses on comparative sea power studies in the Indo-Pacific on Australia, the US, China, South Korea, Japan, and India. The Fellowship Program provides scholars and researchers in the field of Japanese studies the opportunity to conduct research in Japan. During the fieldwork, Dongkeun will be hosted by A/Prof Michito Tsuruoka from Keio University, whom Dongkeun met when A/Prof Tsuruoka was a Visiting Fellow in SDSC in 2023.

It will not be the first time that Dongkeun goes to Tokyo on a research trip. He attended the International Studies Association Asia-Pacific (ISA-AP) Conference in August 2023 to present his thesis to the international audience and exchange ideas, which received great feedback.

Having served as a foreign intelligence officer in the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) from 2018 to 2021, Dongkeun witnessed the tensions between the US and China during his career at ROKN, which sparked his interest in pursuing a PhD degree on sea power.

The Fellowship offers Dongkeun significant advantages for his PhD research. Being fluent in Japanese, he is very keen to work with primary sources in various archives in Japan, including the Military Archival Library of the National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS) and the National Diet Library. Dongkeun believes,

Adding Asian perspectives, including Japanese ones based on primary sources written in their languages, would contribute greatly to the field of strategic studies.

Using the networks he built during his ROKN career and PhD program at SDSC, Dongkeun also plans to conduct interviews with scholars and military officers from the Japanese and US navy (note: the US 7th Fleet is stationed in Yokosuka, Tokyo).

Dongkeun wants to thank A/Prof Michito Tsuruoka for encouraging him to apply for the Fellowship Program and agreeing to host him in Tokyo. He is also very grateful for the generous support received from his supervisors Prof Leszek Buszynski and Prof John Braxland, who sparked his interest in sea power studies and provided him with invaluable guidance.

The great academic environment of the Bell School, including the enthusiastic PhD cohort, stimulating faculty members, and generous funding, made this possible.


Visit our website for more information about the PhD program at the Bell School.