Q&A with Ross King, editor of the Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies

We’re thrilled to welcome the Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies to our publishing program starting with volume 21, issue 1, which is available now. SJEAS is an open-access, international publication that presents research related to the Sinographic Cosmopolis/Sphere of pre-1945 East Asia, publishing both articles that stay within traditional disciplinary or regional boundaries and works that explore the commonalities and contrasts found in countries of the Sinographic Sphere. Today we’re pleased to share an interview with Ross King, editor of SJEAS.

How would you describe SJEAS to someone new to the journal?

SJEAS was launched in 2000. As an international East Asian humanities journal based at a leading South Korean university with seven centuries of excellence in humanities scholarship (Sungkyunkwan University), SJEAS strives to move away from some of the entrenched biases of ‘East Asian’ studies by focusing on pre-1945 humanities in the Sinographic Cosmopolis/Sinographic Sphere; thus, SJEAS now welcomes contributions on pre-1945 Vietnam, which traditionally was not a focus of the journal. Much of East Asian humanities scholarship today is heavily presentist, while also suffering from eurocentrism and (increasingly) sinocentrism. In ‘East Asian’ studies, there is the additional challenge of ‘national studies’ myopia, whereby scholars tend to focus on just one national tradition, and then typically with a lopsided focus on either vernacular or (rarely) Sinitic sources. Thus, SJEAS aspires to challenge such biases and also include comparative and/or transregional perspectives whenever possible.


When did you join SJEAS as editor, and what drew you to the journal?

I joined in 2018, and was drawn by the fact that it is based in Korea at an institution with a strong tradition in premodern East Asian humanities scholarship: the Sungkyunkwan 成均館 was Korea’s foremost seat of learning from 1398 until the end of the Chosŏn dynasty. South Korean scholars are producing robust, theoretically informed humanities scholarship on the Sinographic Sphere across a wide range of fields, and are keen to join the international conversation while also including voices from scholars in neighbouring East Asian countries.


Why is it important for SJEAS to be published open access?

The original terms of the South Korean government funding that helped launch the journal more than twenty years ago stipulated open access; but beyond just that legal requirement, South Korean academia in general is broadly committed to making publicly funded research as widely and freely accessible as possible, and SKKU and SJEAS share that commitment.


How has the journal changed in recent years, and how do you expect it to continue to evolve in the near future?

The most significant change since I joined has been to narrow the temporal focus to pre-1945 and to specify a long-term preference for humanities research on the Sinographic Cosmopolis (including Vietnam), along with a preference for research in translation studies, broadly defined. In previous decades, SJEAS published quite a few articles on post-1945 topics, including work on quite contemporary issues, but there are so many journals now specializing in modern and contemporary topics, and so few focused on pre-1945 (let along ‘premodern’, however one defines that) topics, that we felt it important to narrow the focus.


What are you looking for in submissions?

We are particularly welcoming of contributions that treat pre-twentieth century (before 1945) topics in the humanities. We are keen to highlight the research achievements of colleagues doing cutting-edge research in China (broadly construed), Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Our preference is for solid, primary-source heavy research rather than cutting-edge theoretical or historical work. Research on Vietnam is explicitly encouraged, as is comparative/transnational research. Because of the journal’s anchor in Korea at SKKU, with its centuries-old ties to Korean cultural tradition, we always welcome research on premodern Korean humanities that engages source materials in Literary Sinitic and/or negotiations between Sinitic and vernacular literary culture. I would emphasize that we are willing to put editorial resources into submissions that might (initially) be on shakier ground in terms of the quality of their academic English, provided the research is new and exciting for an international Anglophone audience, and that the English passes a certain relatively high threshold. But all submissions must engage with relevant western or East Asian scholarship outside the national tradition within which it is produced.

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