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Johns Hopkins dust-up

Apr 09,2018
The Moon Jae-in administration has decided to suspend financial support to the U.S.-Korea Institute (USKI) at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. South Korea’s government has annually provided 2 billion won ($1.87 million) to the USKI to fund its Korea-related education, research and policy discourse over the past 12 years.

The institute says that the Moon administration opted to stop the financial backing after its request for the replacement of Jae H. Ku as director of the institute was rejected several times. USKI Chairman Robert Gallucci said that the institute repeatedly received requests from representatives of the South Korean government, including Ambassador to Washington Cho Yoon-je, that Ku, former director of the Human Rights in North Korea Project at Freedom House, be replaced.

Chairman Gallucci, a former U.S. diplomat, is famous for his dovish approach to North Korean affairs. President Moon even invited Gallucci to the Blue House last October to listen to his advice on North Korea. But Gallucci is expressing deep dissatisfaction over the Blue House’s pressure. “I heard that the pressure to replace the director came from a Blue House official. I am disappointed,” he said.

Ku told the JoongAng Ilbo that it all started with the institute’s generous treatment 10 years ago of former lawmaker Lee Jae-oh, a conservative politician under the Lee Myung-bak administration. But the truth is that not only Lee, but also those from the ruling camp, including Yang Jung-chul — a close aide to Moon even though he has no official position in the government — conducted research at the institute for a certain period of time. If the liberal administration really called for the replacement of its director on grounds of his political orientation despite the institute’s bipartisan identity, it cannot but be seen as “inappropriate infringement on academic freedom,” as claimed by Gallucci.

The Blue House said it had to suspend the funding due to the institute’s poor performance, as seen in its “presenting a one- or two-page report despite 2 billion won in subsidies.” But Ku refuted that by insisting the institute delivered a 3,000- to 5,000-page report to the government each year. “In the face of the government’s complaints that the report is too thick, we sometimes had to send a USB instead,” he rebutted.

Johns Hopkins University is a prestigious school that wields influence in Washington. The suspicion that a foreign government pressured it to switch a head of an institute raises deep concerns about damage to trust between the two allies. The government must say what really happened.

JoongAng Ilbo, Apr. 9, Page 30