South Korean officials force closure of US-Korea research centre

Seoul pulls funding from Johns Hopkins centre, sparking row over interference

April 11, 2018
South Korea

The South Korean government is to pull funding from the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, forcing it to close next month and sparking a row over interference in academic affairs.

Robert Gallucci, the institute’s chairman, “said the move was a direct result of the managers’ refusal to follow South Korean government instructions to fire the institute’s director and assistant director,” the Washington Post reported. “It’s utterly inappropriate for a foreign government, and an ally by the way, to threaten an American academic institution this way,” Dr Gallucci said.

Since its foundation in 2006, the thinktank, which runs the 38 North website specialising in North Korean affairs (which will continue to operate), has received 2 billion won (£1.3 million) from the South Korean government annually through the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP), the Korea Times reported.

As its rationale for cutting off funding, the KIEP cited “lax reporting on accounts and a lack of transparency in selecting visiting scholars and interns”.

“To reform the management of the organisation, the KIEP has reportedly requested the resignation of Jae H Ku, director of USKI,” seen as more conservative than the new liberal South Korean administration, “and Jenny Town, vice-director of USKI, a request the thinktank dismissed,” the Korea Times said.

However, Dr Gallucci called the move an “intervention on academic freedom” and has said he will send a letter to South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in, in protest.

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