Seung Hoon Chae

Research Topic:

Incapable of Change? State capacity as a moderating variable in the study of human rights, terrorism and COVID-19
Nuffield College
DPhil Politics

Professor Nancy Bermeo


I am a Politics DPhil Candidate at Nuffield College, University of Oxford. I have recently returned from three years of military service as a lieutenant in the Korean Army, where I developed a strong interest in the role of the state. My research focuses on how the state affects the attainment of various political outcomes, such as the protection of human rights and the fight against terrorism.

I am currently involved in a number of exciting projects. On the one hand, I am working together with an economist colleague from the Korean military to understand the relationship between state capacity and terrorism. State capacity, we believe, can crucially alter the effectiveness of foreign aid and democracy for reducing terrorism. At the same time, I am part of various research projects on COVID-19. For instance, I have joined a project funded by the Korean government that seeks to explain why COVID-19 vaccinations have slowed down in developed countries. Using regression discontinuity designs, we find that reports of vaccine side-effects significantly affected the vaccination rates in the US and the UK. Synthesising these two research interests, I am also using the OxCGRT (Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker) dataset to evaluate how state capacity may have affected the governments' choice of COVID-19 responses.

In the future, I will continue to investigate how a state's capacity affects its response to both traditional (human rights, conflict, and terrorism) and emerging (COVID-19) threats. I will examine, in particular, how state capacity, foreign aid, and terrorism affect each other. Meanwhile, I also believe that there is ample room for interdisciplinary research between the fields of public health and political science. Specifically, I hope to join debates concerning how political institutions affected the efficacy of COVID-19 responses.

I am one of the lab instructors for the undergraduate Quantitative Research Methods (Q-step 1 & 2) course at the University. I am also teaching as a seminar leader in the Politics of Policymaking course for MPP (Master of Public Policy) students at the Blavatnik School of Government.


Chae, S., Park, H. & Kim, W. (2022) “At Odds? How European Governments Decided on Public Health Restrictions During COVID-19.” Journal of Public Health (forthcoming).

Chae, S. (2021) “Are Stronger States More Humane? A Re-evaluation of ‘Exemplary Villains’.” Journal of Peace Research 58 (4): 702-718.

Chae, S. & Park, H. (2020) “Effectiveness of Penalties for Lockdown Violations During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Germany.” American Journal of Public Health 110 (12): 1844-1849.