Sung-Young Kim


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Personal profile


I am a political scientist currently leading a fascinating project on 'The Sources of Competitive Advantage in Exporting Green Energy Systems', which examines why, what and how governments and corporations are promoting smart grids. As a revolutionary step forward from the 'dumb power grids' still in use today, smart grids are the technological infrastructure upon which a clean energy transition will be possible. I am also currently one of four Chief Investigators on an ambitious Australia Research Council Discovery Project (ARC DP) examining 'East Asia's clean energy shift: enablers, obstacles, outcomes and lessons' (2019-2021), which examines the state's role in China and Korea's clean energy transitions. 

All my research is driven by one fundamental questionWhy - and under what conditions - are some individual countries able and willing to use state power for economic advancement, while others are more likely to shun this role, or else engage in predatory behaviour? Drawing on foundational concepts in the social sciences including Michael Mann's 'infrastructural power', Linda Weiss' 'governed interdependence', John Mathews' theorising on the organization of technological industries, and more recently through my own concept of 'Hybridized Industrial Ecosystems', I have attempted to address this question through publishing broadly on the political and economic development of East Asia while also pursuing two specific streams of inquiry:

1. The evolution of East Asia’s developmental states as they leapfrog from technological imitation to innovation 

My first article, ‘Transitioning from Fast-Follower to Innovator’, published in Review of International Political Economy (RIPE) (2012), was one of the first studies to examine the recombination of institutional features associated with developmental states as countries approach the technological frontier (in the telecommunications sector). My second article, ‘The Politics of Technological Upgrading in South Korea’ was published in New Political Economy (NPE) in 2012. This article traced the influence of the broader political environment on technology upgrading efforts in the telecommunications sector. My third article in this stream, ‘The Rise of East Asia’s Global Companies’ (2013), published in Global Policy examined changes in institutional structures of governance in East Asia as a response to the growth of national firms into highly capable and independent technological innovators, which has helped strengthen their footprint on the world stage. 

2. Greening and the evolution of development strategy in East Asia

After years of extensive fieldwork in East Asia, in 2015 I published ‘Developmental Environmentalism’ in Politics & Society journal (with Elizabeth Thurbon). I coined this concept to explain South Korea’s ambitious 'green growth' initiative, which frames climate change as an industrial challenge. In an effort to understand the political factors holding back a wider shift in the embrace of renewable energies in South Korea (and the strategies being deployed to overcome such challenges), I (with Emeritus Prof John Mathews) published an article on ‘Korea's Greening Strategy’ in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (2016). My article in RIPE (2019), 'Hybridized industrial ecosystems and the makings of a new developmental infrastructure in East Asia’s green energy sector', examines the emergence of a new type of developmental thinking centred on what I call ‘hybridized industrial ecosystems’ in Korea and Taiwan. I have coined this new concept as a means of explaining East Asian success in shifting economies to clean energy and circular economy foundations. In 'National Competitive Advantage and Energy Transitions in Korea and Taiwan', published in NPE, I shift the analytical focus to international greening processes and the coping strategies of national authorities to account for the most significant change in Korea and Taiwan's energy policies since the end of WWII - the scaling down of nuclear energy use and the rapid build-up of renewable energy markets.  

I am currently Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Politics and International Relations (Macquarie School of Social Sciences). I am on the Editorial Board of Asian Studies Review serving as Regional Editor (Korea). I serve on the Executive Committee of the Australian Political Studies Association as an Ordinary Member (2021-2024). I also serve on the Executive Committee of the Korean Studies Association of Australasia as Treasurer (2020-2022). I have been a Visiting Researcher at Seoul National University, Korea University and Waseda University. Before returning to Australia, I was Lecturer (2012-2016) in Politics & International Relations at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. 


2019-2021  Australia Research Council Discovery Project (ARC DP) 'East Asia's clean energy shift: enablers, obstacles, outcomes and lessons', Chief Investigators: A/P Elizabeth Thurbon, Dr Sung-Young Kim, A/P Hao Tan, Prof. Emeritus John A. Mathews, Value: $301,000 

2013-2017 Academy of Korean Studies (AKS) ‘Overseas Leading University Programme for Korean Studies awarded to The University of Auckland, Principal Investigator: Dr Changzoo Song; Associate Investigators: Dr Sung-Young Kim and Dr Sunhee Koo, Value: $854,000.

Community engagement

I have frequently contributed op-eds to outlets including Project Syndicate, The Conversation, East Asia Forum, The Korea Times, Taipei Times, Japan Times, and The Interpreter. I have also contributed to official community Consultation processes on various issues being debates in our federal Parliament. 

Research student supervision

I am always eagar to work with doctoral candidates on any area broadly related to the fields of comparative politics, international political economy and international relations. Feel free to email me if you wish to discuss your potential Master of Research (MRes) or PhD project with me!



2015. Jianglin (Jenny) Qin ‘China in the Climate Change Regime Complex: The Efficiency of the Climate Change Regime Complex and a Discussion of the Bottom-up Approach’ (Co-Supervisor)

2014. Xiang Gao ‘Understanding China as a Responsible Power in International Society' (Co-Supervisor)

2015. Corey John Wallace ‘The Evolution of the Japanese Strategic Imagination and Generation Change’ (Co-Supervisor)


2020. Sophie Pantcheff 'The Financialization of the UK Economy: Helping or Hindering Industrial Development?'

2019. Kieran Donelly 'Cultural Statecraft The Confucius Institute Project in Australia'

2016. Le-Minh Si Truong ‘Climbing Up the Ladder - the Case of Vietnam and its Information Communication Technology industry’

2015. Nicholas Mignacca ‘Latecomer Strategies in Forging a Renewable Energy Economy: An Examination of India’s Efforts in Building Domestic Capabilities in Renewable Energy Technology Industries’

2015. Scott Russell ‘The Green Developmental State? The Political Limitations of Taiwan's Green Industry Policy’

2014. Richard Hudson ‘Pursuing Techno-Nationalism in an Age of Globalisation: Chinese Foreign Direct Investment in Angola’

2014. Lauren Gent ‘Governance of Green Growth in New Zealand: Intermittent, Ungoverned Interdependence’


2021. Simran Keshwani 'Disrupting Energy Politics in India: from Redistributive Welfare to the Beginnings of Developmentalism in the Solar Sector'



I am a teacher of International Relations, International Political Economy and Comparative Politics (East Asia) at all levels of study.


POIR8490 International Political Economy


POIR3030 Global Political Economy



External positions

Editorial Board (Regional Editor - Korea) , Asian Studies Review journal Editorial Board

2021 → …

Executive Committee Member , Korean Studies Association of Australasia (KSAA)

1 Jan 2020 → …

Executive Committee Member, Australian Political Studies Association (APSA)

2020 → …

International Advisory Board - Studies in the Political Economy of Public Policy (SPEPP) , Palgrave Macmillan

2020 → …


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