The KU-Latin America Project, one of Korea University’s ambitious partnership initiatives, is gaining momentum.
Korea University, the first university in Korea to sign an MOU with the globally-respected University of Havana, is expanding its academic exchange programs with universities and organizations in Costa Rica and Mexico.
Jaeho Yeom, president of Korea University, made a tour of various Latin American countries for the second time this year to explore the Global Leadership Program’s potential for further expansion on the continent.
Knocking on Cuba’s door
On July 20th, Korea University became the first university in South Korea to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the University of Havana. The agreement is particularly significant against the backdrop of the fact that, approximately a month before the MOU was agreed, the foreign ministers of South Korea and Cuba held a meeting, which suggests that there is a strong possibility that the two governments will establish diplomatic relations. Established in 1728, the University of Havana is one of the most prestigious universities in Cuba, whose alumni include important political figures such as Fidel Castro, the former Prime Minister and President of Cuba. It offers 18 undergraduate programs, 23 master’s programs, and 68 doctoral programs. It is a member of 43 international academic and research networks, and has around 900 international students. Korea University is planning to host an international conference in mid-April 2017 to be attended by several professors from the University of Havana. The conference will discuss a range of issues, including nano science, biotechnology, biomaterials, robotics, and IoT-based smart city technology. In addition, the two universities have agreed on detailed joint action plans for future cooperation, which will involve conducting joint research projects in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences; establishing visiting professor programs; and encouraging the sharing of experimental apparatuses, science texts, and knowledge. Furthermore, they will actively engage in other cooperative efforts in education and research. Finally, Korea University will facilitate joint research projects and faculty exchanges through its “flexible semester system.”
The Increasing importance of Latin American partnership
Costa Rica is home to a rich variety of plants and animals, and around 25% of the country’s land area is comprised of protected national parks and other protected areas. As part of the KU-Latin America Program, Korea University will offer a special curriculum in partnership with the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) of Costa Rica. Tuition and boarding expenses in Costa Rica and round-trip airfare to Costa Rica for all Korea University participants will be fully covered by the program through scholarships. In his special lecture in Costa Rica, President Yeom said, “So far, we’ve been focusing our attention on the English-speaking world. Now is the time to turn our eyes to Latin America, a land of new possibilities. I hope you take this opportunity to become true experts on Latin America.” After the lecture, he met with Henning Jensen-Pennington, the President of the University of Costa Rica, and they signed the agreement on the KU-Latin America Program. On the same day, President Yeom also visited the Costa Rican Ministry of Science and Technology (MICIT) to meet with Marcelo Jenkins Coronas, the Costa Rican Minister of Science, Technology and Telecommunications. They discussed the details of the science and technology cooperative program between the two organizations and consulted in detail about signing an MOU for a government-funded student exchange program. Under the MOU, outstanding Costa Rican students in the natural sciences and engineering who join Korea University’s doctoral program will be awarded a full scholarship with a living allowance by the two organizations.
In another development, Korea University and the South Korean Embassy in Mexico co-hosted a series of forums entitled “All You Need to Know to Study in Korea” in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey, starting on July 25th, 2017. The aim of the forums was to introduce Korean culture and the Korean higher education system, as well as the academic opportunities, admission processes, and scholarship programs of Korea University and other universities in the country. The host of the July 25th forum was Narda Santana, a student of KU Business School and the creator of a YouTube channel called “Latina Saram.” This channel, which introduces Korean culture to Latin American viewers, has around 270,000 subscribers. The forum, held at the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA), was especially successful: over 200 people or more than double the capacity of the venue came, and around 100 people who couldn’t be accommodated watched via a YouTube live stream. In his welcome speech, President Yeom explained the merits of studying in Korea for those who aspire to become global pacesetters.
He also signed an MOU in relation to a Mexican government-funded student exchange program with María Dolores Sánchez, the Deputy Director of the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) in Mexico. Under the terms of the MOU, outstanding Mexican students in the natural sciences and in engineering who join Korea University’s doctoral program will receive a full scholarship and a living allowance, jointly provided by the two organizations. President Yeom emphasized that, “We’ll also give Korea University students opportunities to learn Spanish and to assimilate Mexican culture in Mexico and promote research exchanges between Korea and Mexico in the fields of bioscience and the environment.” By 2020, Korea University will annually invite 200 undergraduate students and 300 graduate students from Latin America to Korea and send 30 Korea University students to the University of Costa Rica. Emphasizing the importance of these burgeoning ties, President Yeom said, “China has become an economic superpower, but in 20 to 30 years, Latin America will emerge as a new economic powerhouse and will play a more important role than the U.S. or Europe.”