SunHa Ahn

Research title: Digital Interactions as a Therapeutic Source for Social Identity Construction among Youths (16-24 ages) Living with HIV in South Africa.

Research Summary

The social stigma surrounding HIV infection within African societies is the notorious barrier for youths who have suffered from disclosing their health status and sought appropriate support from their close ones or communities. This social challenge needs a profound understanding of belief systems in a certain society which may impact behaviour change. Previous studies in public health, however, have been mostly generated with the quantitative data analysis aligned with the western and white male-centred (and white-women) perspectives. These methods tend to have rarely taken into account the context of youths' performative voices in the digital world in the Global South.

In this regard, drawing on the approach of interpretivism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism, and feminism, this research focuses on the process of new identity construction among South African youths (16-24) living with HIV through engaging in digital interactions and thereby the research expects the potential therapeutic role of online anonymous performances for alleviating rampant social stigma. As such, the main aim of this study is to suggest a theoretical framework showing a dynamic process among personal, digital and social identities through digital interactions, which implies forging a new identity of African youths in the health context. Also, based upon Blumer's symbolic interactionism and Goffman's dramaturgy as a core theory serving to construct the individuals' identities, the study will process inductively with the qualitative interview data and thematic analysis.

Although there is a myriad of realistic challenges to reduce new HIV infections in terms of socio-economic inequalities such as the digital divide, overarchingly, one of the primary aims in this study is to identify whether African youths living with HIV experience any disruption between their previous social identities and digitalised ones. In this course, the more resilient and sustainable ways of digital health interventions, contemplating African young women's voices, would be expected to suggest at the end of this research.

Research Interests: 
Digital Health Interventions, Digital and Social Identities, Youth Voices in Social and Public Health, Qualitative Research, Symbolic Interactionism, Dramaturgy, Anti-Stigma, Social Change by Digital Power. 


1. Scenario Planning for 2 Koreas in the Korean Peninsula 2019- 2029, 2019, Book
2. Global Agribusiness Annual Report: Sugar and Bio-Ethanol Industries, 2017, Policy Report, Korea Rural Economic Institute.
3. The Cases Study of Urban Agriculture in Singapore, 2016, Policy Report, Korea Rural Economic Institute. 
4. Overview of Agriculture Policy in Myanmar and its Outlooks, 2016, Policy Report, Korea Rural Economic Institute. 
5. The Abstract and its Implications of the Philippines’ National Budget, 2016, Policy Report, Korea Institute for International Economic Policy.
6. The Repercussions and Overall Prospects after the Myanmar General Elections. 2015, Policy Report, Korea Institute for International Economic Policy.
7. The Results and its Significance of Myanmar Population and Housing Census for Myanmar’s Future and Political and Economic Transition Process, 2015, Policy Report, Korea Institute for International Economic Policy.
8. The Backgrounds and Prospects of the New Notification of the Minimum Wages Act in Myanmar, 2015, Policy Report, Korea Institute for International Economic Policy. 
9. Vietnam's Economic Transition and its Implication on North Korea, 2015, Policy Report, Korea Development Institute and Ministry of Economy and Finance of South Korea.
10.  Korean DMZ World Ecological Peace Park Accompanying with People, 2014, Policy Report, Korea Development Institute and Ministry of Economy and Finance of South Korea.
11. Joint Consulting Project; Policy Instruction for Green Growth (Case studies: Bangladesh, Indonesia, and South Korea), 2013, Policy Report, Korea Development Institute, Ministry of Economy and Finance of South Korea, and World Bank.


  • A Speaker of Panel 3B:'Decolonising Gender, Sexuality and Health at the Conference of Moving the Centre 2021: Toward Radical Futures, Cross-Disciplinary Postgraduate Research Conference on Post/Decolonial and Global Studies on the 4th-6th August 2021.




  • GTA in Qualitative Methods at the University of Glasgow in the second term 2021/22.
  • A Special seminar at the Seoul National University in 2017 and the University of Daegu, South Korea in 2018 respectively: Policy experiences sharing strategy (web-based) of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, South Korea for the cooperation with overseas public servants & International organisations.
  • A Special seminar at the MBA School of the University of Yeungnam, South Korea in 2013: Communication Skills for CEOs.
  • A Mentorship seminar at the Catholic University of Korea in 2016 & the Secondary School called Sinsu Middle School in 2015 respectively: How to build my career.  

Additional Information

Current Activities of Committees


  • KDI School Scholarship of Academic Excellence 2013-2015
  • The 1st prize award for excellent thesis presentation hosted by the Spring Academic Conference of Korea Society of Environment Impact Assessment (KSEIA) in 2015 at Seoul National University.
  • A recognition award of an excellent researcher by the Seoul Institute (Think Tank) for exceptional performance and committed attitude in 2016.

I have worked in both media communication fields for roughly 7 years and later development policy research for around 5 years as a broadcaster and a researcher, respectively. As a policy researcher affiliated with the Korean government institutes, my main research topics concentrated on development challenges in the least-developed countries economically, socially, and environmentally, suggesting governance services and relevant digital platforms based upon Korean development experiences. In this course, I have experienced working with multi-stakeholders and international organisations and overseas governments.

My academic backgrounds include international relationships and economics in BA (the Catholic University of Korea), development policy in MA (Korea Development Institute School), and political communication in MA (University of Leeds, UK). I hope my PhD journey would be the essence of what I have learned and experienced, in turn, to contribute to making a better world for the marginalised who was treated as the voiceless.