I read with great interest the article on morale at Yonsei University (“Foreign academics in Korea: disempowered and ready to leave?”, News, 15 March). It says that “Stephanie Kim, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Korean Studies, interviewed nearly 50 faculty, administrators and students at Underwood International College (UIC), which was opened in 2006 by the prestigious Seoul-based Yonsei University”.
To the best of my knowledge, Kim’s primary research was regarding students. Her latest work, upon which the Times Higher Education piece is largely based, appears to be an attempt to squeeze more out of her time at Yonsei than was warranted. First of all, what does “nearly 50” mean? The lack of an exact number is suspect. Much more damning, however, is the lack of a breakdown. If only three or four of that “nearly 50” were professors, can her findings be regarded as either serious or representative?
The article is misleading in that it appears to the unknowing reader to reflect the current situation at Yonsei and UIC. The fact is that it represents a brief snapshot of one person’s impressions of a very small and unrepresentative sample taken more than four years ago. Allow me to provide exact numbers and statistics regarding the hiring and departure of “foreign academics” at Yonsei and UIC. In 2007, Yonsei had a total of 30 tenure-track international faculty, six of whom were at UIC. By 2012, that number had grown to 57, with 17 at UIC. This year, the numbers are 79 and 32. Over the past decade, Yonsei’s international tenure-track faculty has grown from 18 to 79 professors, with UIC’s moving from one to 32.
As far as “flight risk” is concerned, Yonsei averaged 3.3 departures per year from 2006 to 2011. In 2012, eight professors left, the highest year on record. In the following years, however, the numbers fell to six, three, two and finally to one in 2016. Focusing on UIC, as Kim largely did, the numbers undermine her premise even more. In 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015 and 2016, not a single faculty member departed. In 2008 and in 2012, the peak of the purported crisis, two faculty members left. In 2010, 2013 and 2014, only one faculty member departed each year.
On a more personal note with regard to the various claims about academics leaving as soon as possible due to a lack of both academic and administrative opportunities, I write having been at Yonsei and UIC for 11 years. I was recently promoted to full professor and tenured, and I am serving a second term as associate dean for international affairs. Small wonder why I and those in similar positions were not interviewed.
John M. Frankl
Associate dean for international affairs
Underwood International College