John G. Grisafi

PhD student and scholar of religion, history, and Korea

My name is John G. Grisafi (he/his/him), and I am a scholar and educator specializing in religion, philosophy, and history in Korea and in the philosophy and politics of religion more broadly. I am currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University, studying in the Asian Religions and Religion & Modernity fields. My studies and teaching interests also incorporate Japan and China. I previously studied at the University of Pennsylvania, where I received a BA in East Asian Languages & Civilizations and World History and an MA in East Asian Languages & Civilizations, with a concentration in Korean Studies. Prior to that, I studied Korean at the Defense Language Institute and Kyunghee University.

My research and writing is best described as the critical study of religion and secularism in modern Korea, typically focusing on the theory, philosophy, and discursive history of religion as well as the politics and historiography of the same. I’ve worked on such topics as the public discourse on and response to the association of the marginal religious group Shincheonji with a Covid outbreak in South Korea in 2020, the legacy and memory of former Shinto shrine sites in Seoul, the concept of religious freedom in North Korea, the religions policy of the 1945-1948 United States Army Military Government in (South) Korea, public discourse on shamanism and politics in South Korea in 2016, and more. See the Research & Projects page for a detailed list.

My scholarship on Shincheonji and Covid can be found in the peer-reviewed journal Nova Religio. Additionally, I have worked as a journalist and military analyst covering North Korea, with a total of 200 single-authored and co-authored articles at NK News and NK Pro. Full list of published works on the Publications page.

My teaching is centered on modern Korean and East Asian religion, philosophy, and history. I am currently a Teaching Fellow at Yale University. I also teach Korean history, religion, and culture classes on a voluntary basis at a local Korean American church and occasionally teach in other capacities as well.

I believe in service to the academic profession, to students, and the wider community beyond academia. I teach Korean history, religion, and culture classes on a voluntary basis at a local Korean American church. I give guest lectures and public talks in panels and webinars, and consult for media. Within academia, I organize conferences, panels, and other events, edit publications, and provide peer reviews. I am available on a case-by-case basis for public speaking, guest lectures, and media consultation and interviews on topics within my areas of expertise and experience.

Check my News & Announcements page for updates on my upcoming and recent presentations, talks, publications, and more.

See my Events page for a chronological list of my upcoming speaking engagements.

In addition to being a scholar and journalist, I worked for two years in Area Studies Technical Services (Korean and Japanese specialization) at the University of Pennsylvania Library, and served in the United States Army for 10 years.