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Politics: East Asia


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
Limited places are also open for exchange students.
Please note: this course takes place in The Hague. Traveling between University buildings from Leiden to The Hague may take about 45 minutes.


East Asia is a region of immense political diversity, where electoral democracies like South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan exist side-by-side with authoritarian countries like the People’s Republic of China and North Korea. Regional processes in East Asia range from close cooperation to outright hostilities – recent territorial disputes between China and Japan being just one of many examples from this dynamic region.
This course discusses key issues and approaches in the study of East Asian politics. It introduces political systems and processes, as well as their evolution in East Asian countries. Drawing from political science concepts such as power, legitimacy, and participation, the course examines what factors shape domestic politics in China, Japan, and Korea. In addition, the course introduces key dynamics of East Asian international relations.

Course objectives

  • Students get an overview of the historical and contemporary political developments / dynamics in their chosen area and deepen their existing knowledge and understanding of different political systems, political institutions, political processes and actors in the different regions / countries of the region, using the concepts acquired during the course Politics.

  • Students get acquainted with academic debates on selected topics in the specific region.

  • Students learn how to write a literature review (2,500 words).

  • Students critically engage with advanced academic texts (summarise, analyse, and critically reflect on the validity of the arguments made in these texts).

  • Students apply theories, concepts and research techniques relevant to the field of comparative politics.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Lectures are held every week, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Weekly lectures will cover issues both inside and outside the readings.


Tutorials are held once every three weeks, with the exception of the midterm exam week. Attending all tutorial sessions is compulsory. For this reason, if you are unable to attend a session, it is required that you inform your tutor in advance. Please note that being absent at any tutorial session may have a negative impact on the grade of the assignment due for that particular tutorial session. This is at the discretion of the tutor.

Assessment method


  • Midterm Exam:
    Written examination with short open questions and (up to) 50% multiple choice questions.

  • Final Exam:
    Written examination with short open questions and (up to) 50% multiple choice questions.


Partial grade Weighing
Tutorials 40%
Midterm Exam 30%
Final Exam 30%

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note of the following:

  • The end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of Tutorial grade, Midterm Exam grade, and Final Exam grade.

  • The weighted average of the Midterm Exam grade and the Final Exam grade needs to be 5.5 or higher.

  • This means that failing Exam grades cannot be compensated with a high Tutorial grade.


If the end grade is insufficient (lower than a 6.0), or the weighted average of Midterm- and Final Exams is lower than 5.5, there is a possibility of retaking the full 60% of the exam material, replacing both the earlier Midterm- and Final Exam grades. No resit for the tutorial is possible.
Please note that if the Resit Exam grade is lower than 5.5, you will not pass the course, regardless of the tutorial grade.

Retaking a passing grade

Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2021 – 2022.

Exam review and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.

Reading list

  • The general required reading for the respective weekly lecture sessions and tutorial sessions will be listed on Brightspace.

In addition, students not yet familiar with contemporary East Asia are advised to read the following very short introductions:

  • Goto-Jones, Christopher, Modern Japan – A Very Short Introduction. Oxford et al.: Oxford University Press.

  • Mitter, Rana, Modern China – A Very Short Introduction. Oxford et al.: Oxford University Press.

Students interested in further deepening their understanding of the region may also find the following books worthwhile:

  • Joseph, William A. (ed.), Politics in China: An Introduction. Oxford et al.: Oxford University Press.

  • Kil, Soong Hoom & Moon, Chung-in (eds), Understanding Korean Politics: An Introduction. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

  • Stockwin, James Arthur Ainscow, Governing Japan – Divided Politics in a Resurgent Economy (4th ed.). Oxford et al.: Blackwell Publishing.


  • Enrolment through uSis for Tutorials and Lectures is mandatory.

  • Students will be enrolled for Exams by the Administration Office, as long as they have a valid Tutorial enrolment.

  • General information about uSis is available on the website.



All other information.