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2021: Looking Back

The world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, as both the Delta and Omicron variants have emerged during 2021. The Wilson Center and the Asia Program have continued to provide their expert insights and analysis through virtual events and publications in a shifting political landscape.

As we began 2021, the United States was already working to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and end the country's longest war. While many predicted that the country would fall to a Taliban offensive, few thought that it would happen so quickly. In August, the U.S. military remained in the country to facilitate a civilian evacuation through Kabul Airport before their final withdrawal on August 30th. The Wilson Center's experts provided thorough and up to the minute analysis of the quickly shifting situation through our new initiative, Hindsight Up Front: Afghanistan.

On February 1st, 2021, a coup in Myanmar saw the elected government deposed by the military (the Tatmadaw). As the situation has deteriorated with widespread violence against protestors, the Asia Program hosted representatives of the National Unity Government in May to discuss the crisis. In November, we published a new piece from Public Policy Fellow Ye Myo Hein and Program Association Lucas Myers - Seizing the State: The Emergence of a Distinct Security Actor in Myanmar. The two also contributed to a new collection from the Latin America Program, Lonely at the Barricades: How to Strengthen the Global Defense of Democracy.

In July, Japan hosted the Summer Olympics, postponed from 2020. Though there were many changes to the programming to adjust for the pandemic concerns, many were still critical of the decision to go ahead with the games. The Asia Program brought together a team of experts to discuss the potential problems with an international athletic event in the age of coronavirus for Tokyo and the Long Game for the Olympics.

The year also saw the ever growing appeal of South Korean culture and soft power in America, from the critically acclaimed film Minari being nominated for six Academy Awards, to the Netlix hit Squid Game setting streaming records. The Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy covered all of these stories and more. In August, the BBC World Service launched The Lazarus Heist, a podcast series hosted by Senior Fellow Jean H. Lee that explored the story of a cyber-heist tied to North Korean hackers.

Several personnel changes were made in the Asia Program this year. We would like to congratulate Abraham Denmark on his new position as Vice President of Programs of the Wilson Center. We are also pleased to announce Shihoko Goto is currently the Acting Director of the Asia Program and the Korea Center has welcomed Sue Mi Terry as its new Director.

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season, and a happy new year. As always, you can keep up to date with our newest analysis, publications, and events on our website or by following us on social media:

Twitter: AsiaProgram and Korea_Center

Facebook: Asia Program

Instagram: WilsonCenterKorea

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Asia Program

The Asia Program promotes policy debate and intellectual discussions on U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific as well as political, economic, security, and social issues relating to the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region.   Read more