Hun Kim is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy at the University of California, Irvine. His research focuses on the production of urban space and the political economy of Asian cities. Hun’s current ethnographic work examines inter-Asian and late-socialist connections of urban development and infrastructure in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam.

Hun holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning with a designated emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.







Lê Duẩn street, District One during the calendar new year. Photo by Hun Kim 2012.Hun Kim’s book project, “Reform Capital: Hedging Saigon’s Urban Future,” examines the contemporary urban transformation of Saigon, Vietnam (officially Ho Chi Minh City). Beginning in the 1990s, Saigon became an emergent property frontier for East and Southeast Asian firms who sought to cash in on the city’s staggering growth rates and booming real estate market. State agencies partnered with Asian investor-builders along with international development institutions to reimagine and build Saigon as the next ascendant Asian city.

Set amidst a continuing thirty-year “transition” to market-oriented socialism, the book identifies late-socialist reforms not as a set of linear interventions producing a more capitalist city. Rather, it examines an array of conflicting and contradictory interventions based on selectively deployed and recombined capitalist and socialist values. Here, reform is a technology of governing that can funnel future aspirations into the present, transpose beauty onto disarray, and suspend and compartmentalize critiques of governance and growing inequality in its pitch of Saigon as part of Asia’s world-class cities. The book argues that late-socialist reforms facilitate the movement of these different strands of transnational capital and urban development expertise into the city through legal exceptions and the informal practices of state agencies.

Reform Capital situates reform within Vietnam’s late socialist context and amidst rapidly transforming Asian cities. As the referents for the world class city move from West to East, with cities like Shanghai, Seoul, Taipei and Singapore modeling new forms of urbanism and introducing new vectors of Asian transnational capital, cities like Saigon must engage in the new art of being global in order to participate in and capture emergent circuits of growth while maintaining ties to more traditional sources of development capital. The result is a form of governance and urbanism that is highly speculative and recombinant, capable of managing and hedging different and conflicting alternative urban futures. In this way, the book pays close attention to the collision of late socialism and global capitalism that lay bare the contradictions of transition.




2017 | “Capturing World Class Urbanism Through Modal Governance in Saigon.” positions: Asia critique 25(4): 669-692.

2017 | “Speculating on World Class Infrastructure in Ho Chi Minh City” Trends in Southeast Asia 11:17.

2017 | “Vietnam’s Transportation Infrastructure Challenges.” ISEAS Perspectives No. 60. Yusof Ishak Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

2016 | Jadaliyya Cities: City Talks, Ananya Roy (28 mins), May 15, With Hiba Bou Akar

2012 | “Quy hoạch phi chính thức, Saigon” [Informal Planning in Saigon] in đô thị [Urban Planning Magazine] September.



2018 –            Assistant Professor, Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy, UC Irvine

2017-2018   Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia


University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D. (conferred December 2015)
City and Regional Planning

Ananya Roy (Chair), School of Planning and Social Welfare, University of California, Los Angeles
Teresa Caldeira, City and Regional Planning
Aihwa Ong, Anthropology

University of California, Berkeley, M.C.P. (2009)
City and Regional Planning

University of California, Berkeley, B.A. (1999)


Urban studies, specifically political economy of cities, space as mode of production; ethnography; late-socialist and transitioning economies; East and Southeast Asia.


2018-2019 | Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Insight Development Grant


Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning
Association of American Geographers
American Anthropological Association
Association of Asian Studies







Saigon Mobi Aquarium. Photo by Hun Kim

Hun Kim

Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy

University of California, Irvine

218G Social Ecology I

Irvine, California


Email: hunkim@uci.edu