A testament to its unique links with Korea, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy was pleased to announce the establishment of a new chair dedicated to Korean Studies and founded by the Kim Koo Foundation and the Korea Foundation. In celebration of this occasion, a delegation from Fletcher traveled to Seoul in September to thank the donors and attend the inaugural lecture by the new holder of the chair, Professor Sung-Yoon Lee (F94, F98).
“South Korea’s status in world affairs…coupled with the comprehensive set of problems posed by North Korea…makes the study of contemporary Korea compelling at an institution like The Fletcher School,” said the School’s dean, Stephen Bosworth. “The new professorship will enable The Fletcher School to offer a variety of courses on modern Korean history, politics and foreign relations as well as those that offer a broader view of contemporary relations of East Asia.”
Korea has long had a special link to The Fletcher School. In particular, Dean Bosworth has served in essential roles in advancing U.S.-Korea relations in various capacities; for example, heading the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), set up jointly by the United States, South Korea and Japan to try and resolve the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear programs, and also as U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 1997 to 2001. Dean Bosworth later served as President Barack Obama’s special representative for North Korea policy from 2009 to 2011, the highest position in the U.S. government tasked with policy-making vis-à-vis North Korea. The Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professorship provides further academic ties to Korea and the region.
Sung-Yoon Lee is an internationally recognized commentator on Korean affairs and teaches a highly popular course on North Korea at Fletcher—a rare offering among graduate schools of international affairs in the United States. His efforts have helped establish The Fletcher School as a hub for students pursuing Korean studies, with the institution even offering scholarships for students interested in the subject.
“I know that this chair will enable future generations of students, policymakers and scholars at Fletcher and in the Boston area to learn about Korean history and foreign affairs and contribute to peace, stability, amity and prosperity in and around Korea and also beyond East Asia,” Lee said in his inaugural lecture on September 20 at the Kim Koo Museum and Library in Seoul.
In the inaugural lecture, titled “In Due Course: The Maturation of Korea-U.S. Relations?” Professor Lee charted the history between the two countries, noting that “it is a remarkable bilateral relationship, but one that requires constant attention and nurturing.”
Despite the fact that U.S. deterrence since the end of the Korean War has helped keep the “long peace” between North and South Korea for nearly six decades, Lee argued that some South Koreans still cling to the idea that the United States has a much longer history of betraying Korean trust. They cite examples such as Washington’s failure to defend Korea against Japanese aggression in the early 20th century, American complicity in the post-WWII partition of the Korean peninsula and alleged American complicity in the massacre of civilians by the South Korean military in 1980.
This sense of betrayal, in Lee’s view, is not only a misinterpretation of history but a symptom of South Koreans’ dependence on the United States rather than a true desire to be independent. He called on South Koreans to shed this sense of victimization and dependence and celebrate the longevity and success of the alliance.
“It is time that South Koreans dispossess themselves of their long-held victim mentality and dependence mentality and look to the Korea-U.S. bilateral relationship as a special success story in the post-1945 era,” Lee said.
The chair’s sponsors – the Kim Koo Foundation and Korea Foundation – certainly understood both Fletcher’s intimate ties with Korea and its contemporary importance in international affairs when they funded the initiative. The president of the Kim Koo Foundation, Dr. Kim Ho Youn, is a member of the Fletcher Asian Advisory Group, and his wife, Mee, a member of the Fletcher board of overseers.
"We are especially grateful to Dean Bosworth, who has led U.S. policy toward the Korean peninsula for so long, for making this chair in Korean studies at Fletcher possible,” Dr. Kim said. “We all appreciate very much his deep knowledge of Korea and passion in keeping the South Korea-U.S. alliance strong and resolving the North Korea problem.”
The Korea Foundation is an affiliate of South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is the single greatest sponsor of Korean studies abroad. The foundation has sponsored or co-sponsored over seventy professorships in the United States.
“The new faculty chair at Fletcher represents the culmination of the Kim’s vision in educating generations of students and practitioners from the world over who take interest in Korean studies,” Dean Bosworth said. “We invite all students, academics, policymakers and supporters of Korea to take interest in this new and exciting opportunity as we build new projects and programs on Korea in years to come.”
--- Prashanth Parameswaran