Monroe Hall, 426
Major — International Relations
Seok-Joon is a doctoral candidate at the George Washington University. He is interested in international security, civil war, international development, public opinion, and political psychology. He completed his MPhil in Development Studies at the University of Cambridge and his BA in psychology at the Seoul National University. His dissertation, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, explores how states can communicate their intentions and attempts to develop a unified theory of signaling and perception. He is also involved in another project that examine the effect of environmental shocks on the risk of civil war and the role of foreign aid as a conflict-prevention tool. Prior to coming to Washington, D.C., he served as a third secretary at the Development Policy division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul, South Korea.
My dissertation, "Do Costly Signals Matter?: Unifying Theories of Signaling and Perception in International Relations," addresses the debate between structural realists and defensive/motivational realists in international security over the role of states’ motives and the ways by which states convey their benign/aggressive motives. Contrary to structural realists, defensive and motivational realists, I argue, correctly identify the important role of state motives in the strategic settings in which states interact with each other and update their beliefs in another state’s motives. However, their theories are not complete without understanding how observers perceive signals from an actor. They do not pay much attention to a subjective dimension of interpreting states' behaviors by exclusively focusing on objective identification of a state's security type by the logic of costly signals. Drawing on insights from both from rationalist theories of international politics and cognitive psychology, I argue that how the public and the elite of a state interpret another state's actions depend on the image of a state as well as the logic of costly signals. I find the effects of four factors that affect a state image, which in turn influence the way of interpreting another state's actions: identity, morality, domestic politics, and regime type.