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“Hello, My Schoolfellows in Korea”

Posted March. 10, 2006 02:59,   


A reunion of School of International Public Affairs (SIPA) alumni in Korea will be held on March 14 at the Shilla Hotel, Seoul, Korea to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the school’s foundation. SIPA Dean Lisa Anderson will also be in attendance.

A “special guest” for this year’s reunion in Korea is Alexander Vershbow, the U.S. ambassador to Korea who took office last year. While serving as a diplomat after graduating from Yale University, Ambassador Vershbow studied diplomatic policies toward Russia at SIPA from 1984 to 1986. Dean Anderson is also a class of 1976 graduate of the school.

For Vershbow, his major at graduate school might have worked nicely for him. Serving as U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia before coming to Korea, he has been considered one of the best Russia experts in the Department of State. His family is still based on the eastern areas of Poland.

“During my two years at the graduate school, I made up my mind to major in Soviet Union issues and national security policies as a diplomat. It was such a tremendous opportunity to take courses from distinguished scholars encompassing diplomatic policies and theories, such as Zbigniew Brzezinski and Marshall Sherman,” said Vershbow on February 9, recalling his graduate school days.

Excited about the stories of his school life that he found himself revisiting after such a long while, he also talked about the memories of his summer internship in New York after finishing his first year of graduate school. “The experiences I gained at the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) and the YMCA’s international student volunteering programs sustained my 29-year career as a diplomat.”

Policy Director Chunder Moon of the Asia Foundation’s Seoul office, a Korean-Canadian who is also a SIPA alumnus, hinted, “Ambassador Vershbow is very positive about meeting with SIPA alumni in Korea. By holding breakfast lectures and other meetings, we are planning to transform the reunion into a regular forum, rather than a mere meeting.”

The graduate school’s Korean alumni include: (Late) Kim Byung-hoon, the former presidential protocol secretary; Kim Jong-hui, the former presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security; Park Soo-gil, the former Korean ambassador to the United Nations; and Park Yeon, the former Korean consul general to Yokohama. “When it comes to international relations studies, SIPA is considered one of the best graduate schools in the U.S., not to mention another advantage of its being in New York. There are many SIPA alumni in Korea, too,” said Yoo Byung-gon, the chief professional advisor to the National Assembly’s Executive Committee and a SIPA graduate.

Seung-Ryun Kim srkim@donga.com