The visit was successful in that all the institutions have indicated interest in potential links with USP and we will explore this further and hopefully in the case of some of them, this will result in signed MOUs soon.
I would like to thank the University for giving me leave to undertake this visit. I would also like to thank the Ambassador of Korea to Fiji, His Excellency, Mr. Zeon Nam-Jin for his efforts in organizing this invitation, and Korea Foundation for its invitation.
2. Korea National College of Agriculture and Fisheries (KNCAF)
This visit has enabled me both to meet the president of KNCAF, Professor Yang-Sik Kim; Professor Kwang-Ho Park, Director-General of Agriculture and Rural Research Institute; and Dr. Hoong-Woong Kim, Planning Director. I was also able to visit the facilities of the KNCAF. The KNCAF has an extremely impressive research record focusing on inventions and innovations, some of which can be extremely useful for USP. In particular, they have invented a mechanical device that enables very precise sowing of seeds and placement in the soil of fertilizers. The President indicated that KNCAF would be willing to support USP with some of their equipment and ideas if we can reach an agreement in terms of offering something back in return, which may be in a way of hosting some of students on placement. We will explore these possibilities later.
The visit to KNCAF made me realize very much how important it is to place the solving of major agricultural problems at the centre of the curriculum of our School of Agriculture and Technology. I am hopeful that, given that KNCAF is the national initiative of the Government of Korea, we will be able to benefit through a potential link.
3. Seoul National University
Seoul National University is the largest and most prestigious university in Korea and I was honoured to meet the Vice-President of International Affairs, Professor Hiwon Yoon; Dr. Jeongnam Hwang, Director, International Exchange and Education; and Dr. Hyun Seung Shin, Head of Protocol.
Professor Yoon expressed readiness to collaborate with USP, starting with a student exchange programme and then to explore other possibilities. I came away from that meeting with a very strong sense that we will be able to collaborate with Seoul National University and it is important that USP links with some of the leading universities in the world.
4. Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
I was able to meet with the Provost and Vice-President of operations of KAIST, Professor Soon-Heung CHANG; Professor Kang Kyung-In, Senior Researcher, Satellite Technology Research Centre; and Professor Chun-Taek Rim, On-Line Electric Vehicle Group Leader. I also toured the campus and attended dinner hosted by Professor Chang.
KAIST is regarded as a premier science and technology university in Korea and it has just taken over the leading educational institute in the area of Information and Communication Technology which will now become one of its colleges. Because KAIST is at the cutting edge of research and science and technology, there is very little that USP can offer to KAIST but Professor Chang, who has some connections to Fiji in particular and who has visited USP showed interested in assisting the University. We agreed that two possible ways to start might be for USP to select one of the professors at KAIST as one of the external advisers to begin an academic link as well as to explore the possibility of hosting a student exchange programme.
My visit to KAIST indicated just how much work USP will have to do to have a credible performance in the area of high quality research, particularly in the area of inventions and innovations that assist the Pacific Island countries in practical development terms. Just looking at the number of professors they have in KAIST, I came away with the determination to increase the numbers of professors and research active staff if USP is to fulfill the ambitions of the strategic plan.
5. Korea University (KU)
Korea University is the oldest and the largest private university in Korea, with an enrolment of over 35,000 students. I met the President of KU, Professor Ki-Su Lee; Vice-President, Professor Heung-Suk Choi; Director, Office of the President, Dr. Siheung Park; Manager, Exchange Programmes, Mr. JJ Park; and Manager, International Communications and Protocol, Mr. DiArcy Drachenberg.
President Lee showed a lot of interest in USP. He recently visited Fiji in relation to volunteer work by students of KU. KU has also been donated some land in Naitasiri, so it is a university that already has a strong interest in Fiji.
Korea University has already provided pro formas for potential agreements and we hope to sign an agreement soon.
6. Meeting and Lunch Hosted by Korea Foundation
The Korea Foundation arranged a discussion and lunch with its officials and other relevant people. Executive Vice-President of Korea Foundation, Ambassador Hahn Young-Hee hosted the discussions and lunch together with the Honorary Consul General of Fiji, General Woo Joo Chang; President of Asia-Pacific Association of International Education, Professor Doo-Hee Lee; Chief, Research and Development Team, Asia Pacific Centre for Education for Internatinal Understanding, Professor Yang Hye-Ran; Director, Southwest Asia and Pacific Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Korea, Mr. Sun Nahmkook; and officials of Korea Foundation.
The Korea Foundation is keen to assist follow-on activities from this visit. Professor Lee invited us to become a member of the Asia-Pacific Association for International Education. General Chang promised to assist the development of our links in Korea.
7. Cultural and Development Visits
I was also able to experience some cultural aspects of Korea through visits to former palaces, a folk village, a tour of an art village, visits to the Seoul Tower and Samsung D’light, a tour of Green Growth Hall, and finally attendance of a “Nanta” performance.
These visits indicated a vibrant economy and society that is emerging strongly from the global economic crisis and which has adopted a strong green-growth, low-carbon development strategy.
This short visit to Korea at the invitation of the Korea Foundation, and with the encouragement of the Korean Ambassador to Fiji, His Excellency, Mr. Nam-Jin Zeon was an important step in broadening USP's international profile and possibly enlisting Korea as a future development partner. Given the relative lack of profile of the Pacific in Korea, I was pleased with the level of interest shown by these leading Korean higher educational institutions. I am hopeful that we will be able to develop useful academic linkages and, with some additional follow up, be able to engage Korea more effectively in the development of USP.
I would like to thank the Korean Ambassador to Fiji, His Excellency Mr. Nam-Jin Zeon, and the Korea Foundation very much for making this visit possible. I would also like to thank the Honorary Consul of Fiji in Korea, General Chang who not only met me at the luncheon hosted by the Korea Foundation but was instrumental in making arrangements at the KAIST for me to meet officials of that university as his son is the Provost there.