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Institutional censorship

Apr 12,2018
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JUNG HYO-SIK

*The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

It may be an infringement of academic freedom. Whether it was started by the Blue House or the National Assembly, that is how some Americans view the attempt to influence the leadership of the U.S.-Korea Institute (USKI) at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). They ask why the liberal administration censors the academic position of an American institute. Regardless of their liberal and conservative tendencies, experts feel the same way about the issue.

Frank Jannuzi, the president of the moderate Mansfield Foundation, tweeted on April 7 that it was deplorable that the donors to an academic institute targeted certain scholars with their donations and directed policy positions. He claimed that he supported USKI chairman Robert Gallucci and SAIS dean Vali Nasr for defending academic freedom.

Joshua Stanton, a lawyer with a hawkish view on North Korea, wrote on his blog, One Free Korea, that Korea’s liberal government was trying to censor the North Korea policy debate in America. Stanton wrote, “Paradoxically, USKI is best known for publishing the reliably soft-line, anti-anti-North Korean, pro-‘engagement’ 38 North blog. It’s the last outlet you’d think Moon Jae-in’s people would mess with.” He continued, “But the principle at stake here transcends ideology,” and, “Presumably, this is a threat to prosecute the columnist for criminal libel or sue for defamation.” He also argued, “If Mr. Gallucci’s letter to President Moon doesn’t have the desired effect, perhaps his next letter should be to the Attorney General.”

If the National Assembly started it as the Blue House explained, it is doubtful how much information on USKI was available to push for the departures of the chairman and vice chairman. I am not sure whether the USKI website and 38 North blog were checked for reports and activities. If the controversy continues, the public diplomacy network that cost 20 billion won ($18.8 million) in 12 years will be blown away, and Washington experts may look on the Korean government with prejudice.

There is a solution. The National Assembly’s policy committee can follow the supplementary opinion on the Korea Institute for International Policy (KIEP), which doled out funds to USKI, when the 2018 USKI budget was passed in September 2017. It stated that the USKI organization should reshuffle and a transparency reinforcement plan be prepared, and by March 2018, the results should be reported. The National Assembly may decide to continue contributions by evaluating the USKI outcomes.

On the infringement of academic freedom, procedure and method issues, it would be wise to apologize to Gallucci and the USKI staff.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 10, Page 29