SU becomes first U.S. university to host ongoing scholarly exchange with a North Korean counterpart
SU becomes first U.S. university to host ongoing scholarly exchange with a North Korean counterpartMay 09, 2003Matthew R. Snydermrsnyder@syr.edu
While the world was watching April’s negotiations between the governments of North Korea and the United States, discussions of a different sort were taking place on the campus of Syracuse University. A team of five scholars from Kim Chaek University of Technology (KCUT), of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, spent April 8-May 7 studying civilian information technology alongside researchers from SU. The North Koreans’ visit to Syracuse marks the highlight of a partnership conceived in 2001 and led by SU professor Stuart J. Thorson, director of information technology in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
The SU/KCUT project is the first partnership of its kind in which researchers from North Korean and U.S. institutions have participated in ongoing collaboration and made extended visits to each other’s campuses; a team from SU went to Pyongyang in June 2002, and KCUT delegations have previously visited Syracuse in March 2002 and December 2002.
The bilateral research collaboration, in the general area of integrated information technology, supports the development of civilian-sector IT infrastructure in the DPRK. Researchers on both sides hope the success of the most recent visit will bolster plans for twin SU and KCUT research labs, for use during and between future collaborative visits.
The partnership has been assisted by the The Korea Society (TKS) – a New York-based, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to bolstering relations between the United States and Korea – and funded in part by TKS, the Henry Luce Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
“This research collaboration between Kim Chaek and SU has enabled academics at the two institutions to work together toward a common research objective,” says Thorson. “As a side effect, we have experienced the tangible benefits that flow from trusted cooperation.”
During their most recent visit, KCUT researchers studied such topics as digital libraries, machine translation and decision support with Thorson and other SU faculty members. The North Korean and American researchers also visited a City of Syracuse courthouse and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City to study how IT is used in each of those venues.
In addition to Thorson, SU scholars from the Maxwell School, L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, School of Information Studies, the University Library, the Systems Assurance Institute and the English Language Institute are involved in the research.
“This one-of-a-kind research initiative is exactly the sort of multidisciplinary scholarship envisioned by SU’s Academic Plan,” says Vice Chancellor and Provost Deborah A. Freund. “It’s yet another example of how well SU works with overseas institutions to further the state of the art and provide the educational experience and global understanding that are more important in today’s world than ever before.”
The partnership with KCUT is just one of SU’s many global collaborations. Highlights include:
- In 1993, SU became the first U.S. institution of higher education to establish working relationships with institutions in China. Since then, SU has helped China’s leading university build that nation’s first school of public policy.
- A partnership with Vietnam, sponsored since 1994 by the World Bank and the Ford Foundation, has educated Vietnamese government officials on public affairs issues.
- The 1999 launch of a partnership with Moscow State University marked the first public administration program at a Russian university.
“SU’s track record of successful international partnerships was crucial to getting this project off the ground,” says Thorson. “Our reputation for global scholarship was key to establishing credibility with the many audiences who have played a role in the continuing success of this effort.”
Several other universities, including Harvard and Cornell, were vying to be the first in the United States to partner with a North Korean institution. So far, only SU has been able to negotiate successfully with donors, colleagues overseas, organizations such as The Korea Society and government agencies to bring such a partnership into being.
According to Thorson, the research effort is already bearing fruit, in part thanks to the attitudes of the North Korean researchers. “We’ve been impressed by their willingness to commit time, resources and especially top scholars and administrators to this effort,” says Thorson. “Our partnership has come a long way since we began, and that has largely been a consequence of how sincerely cooperative the Kim Chaek scholars and their supporters have been.”