• 96 Citations
  • 5 h-Index

Research output per year

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Personal profile


I am a political scientist currently leading a 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 Australia Research Council Discovery Project (ARC DP) 'East Asia's clean energy shift: enablers, obstacles, outcomes and lessons' (2019-2021). I currently work as a Lecturer and the Deputy-Director of Research in the Department of Modern History, Politics & International Relations.

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? 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). This concept was coined 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 latest 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. 

Before returning to Australia, I was a Lecturer for five years (2012-2016) in Politics & International Relations at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. I have been a Visiting Researcher at Seoul National University, Korea University and Waseda University. I undertook my doctoral training under the supervision of Emeritus Prof Linda Weiss in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. The title of my PhD thesis was ‘Telecommunications Inc.: Korea’s Challenge to Qualcomm’.


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.


Research engagement

  • My work on 'Developmental Envirionmentalism' was highlighted in a May 2017 interview with Prof John Mathews (see: China Dialogue on ‘Why India and China are driving the “global green shift”’). China Dialogue is based in Beijing and London, which publishes articles in both Chinese and English.

Community engagement

  • In June 2016, I appeared on U.S broadcasted The Scholars' Circle hosted by Dr Maria Armoudian to discuss my work on smart microgrids in South Korea based on my fieldwork.

Research student supervision



2015. ‘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. ‘Understanding China as a Responsible Power in International Society'. (Co-Supervisor)

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


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

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

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

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

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


2019. 'Chinese Power and the Confucius Institutes'. 


I am a committed teacher of International Political Economy and Comparative Politics (East Asia)


IRPG844 Asia-Pacific Politics

IRPG849 International Political Economy 

Undergraduate (introductory and senior):

POIR260 East Asia: Development and Democracy

POL108 Introduction to Global Politics


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Research Outputs

  • 9 Citations (Scopus)
    34 Citations (Scopus)

    Developmental environmentalism: explaining South Korea's ambitious pursuit of green growth

    Kim, S-Y. & Thurbon, E., Jun 2015, In : Politics and Society. 43, 2, p. 213-240 28 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    32 Citations (Scopus)
    13 Citations (Scopus)

    The rise of East Asia's global companies

    Kim, S-Y., May 2013, In : Global Policy. 4, 2, p. 184-193 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    8 Citations (Scopus)