With a history of agriculture and farming, the Korean Rural Community Corp. (KRC) has decided to spread its knowledge by building an agricultural training center.

The corporation plans to begin construction for the estimated $43 million dollar Rural Community-International Education Exchange Center (RC-IEEC) in 2016 and will start running the facility in 2017, training government officials from developing countries to learn more about Korea’s knowledge of agriculture.

“Many developing countries are seeking to learn from Korea about how it developed its agricultural industry,” said KRC CEO Lee Sang-mu.

According to the CEO, “To meet this growing demand, we decided to build the RC-IEEC to more effectively share our knowledge about farming, agricultural infrastructure and experience with the developing world. The planned facilities will enable us to share our knowledge in a more systematic manner.”

In the 1970s, farming and agriculture accounted for half of South Korea’s economy. Known for their long, hot humid summers that are favorable for the development of varied vegetation, South Korea’s most popular crops include rice, pork, beef, and milk.

Due to the rapid growth of technology, currently agriculture only accounts for 6.2 percent of the economy.

After joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994, the government was forced to cut tariffs and eliminate quotas, resulting in today’s 20 percent grain production compared to its 70 percent grain production in 1970.

Today, South Korea is the Asian leader in organic agriculture production, making this announcement a timely decision to build the RC-IEEC and share their agricultural knowledge with developing countries.

“The RC-IEEC will play a crucial role in spreading Korea’s experience and knowledge in agriculture by inviting public-and private-sector government officials from 50 developing nations to come and learn,” Lee said. “The center will contribute significantly to improving the livelihoods of farming villages across the globe.”

The four-story building will have classrooms, conference rooms, and other teaching facilities that will create an environment to learn and conduct business. The center plans to provide at least 50 academic training programs in the areas of rural development, rural welfare, and individual empowerment.

With the announcement of the training center, many developing countries are already on board for training with hopes to solve their countries’ personal food crisis.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, The Korea Times, The Nation
Photo: Prospect Farm

impoverished_North_KoreansNorth and South Korea have finally reached an agreement — putting an end to the tense military standoff that could’ve pushed the rivals to all-out armed conflict. In a joint accord, the two countries showed cooperation. Continued cooperation in the future could place South Korea in a position to help impoverished North Koreans.

In the newly established accord, North Korea “expressed regret” for the recent mine blasts injuring two South Korean soldiers. It also agreed to end its “semi-state of war” by pulling back troops deployed on the frontline. Likewise, South Korea agreed to turn off loudspeakers playing taunting propaganda messages across the border.

The two sides also agreed to work towards reuniting families separated by the Korean War. This is an especially significant step in the right direction, as it has remained a recurring point of contention for more than half a century.

Technically, the two Koreas have been at war for the past 60 years, since the Korean War ended with a ceasefire that was never officially ratified by a formal peace treaty. This technicality helps offer insight into the ambiguous, untrusting nature of Korean international relations over the past few decades.

Although countless issues between the two countries remain unsolved, things are at least looking up. South Korea’s lead negotiator, National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-Jin, explained that the agreement could provide a “new momentum” for future inter-Korean relations.

While he could have been alluding to a general improvement in their international relationship, his statement potentially carries even more meaning. Improved international relations between the two Koreas could specifically signify major changes for struggling North Koreans unable to escape poverty on their own.

In recent years, South Korea has become an increasingly influential power in global arenas. Rapid industrialization, economic modernization and an essential transition from dictatorship to democracy all worked together to achieve this important transition.

South Korea has emerged as a bridge connecting developed and developing nations.

Key leadership positions fulfilled by South Koreans have worked to solidify the country’s new role in world affairs. In March 2012, the Obama administration nominated President Jim Yong Kim, born in Seoul, Korea, as president of the World Bank. Presently, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea serves as secretary-general of the UN.

The original vision of the United Nations was to achieve an important balance: The UN was established in order to address the goals of the most powerful nations while still achieving inclusive global representation for underdeveloped countries. Leaders like Ban and Kim are working to achieve such global inclusion.

More and more, market economies and fairly representative governments are characterizing developing nations. Given this new trend, South Korea is ideally positioned to play a leading role in reducing global poverty.

Although it is tough to predict exactly what this means for North Korea, agreements like this are at least a step in the right direction. As our world becomes more interconnected, transnational issues like poverty can more feasibly be tackled from multiple sides.

Looking ahead, if the two Koreas were ever to reach a point of full-on cooperation, issues like hunger and poverty could become a thing of the past.

Sarah Bernard

Sources: Haaretz, Desert News, BBC, News Yahoo
Photo: Pixabay

On March 3, 2012, South Korea founded its first American university with a goal to bring degree programs to international universities in hopes of fostering global leaders.

Now, two years later, the school has exceeded expectations, attracting students from 20 countries around the world, including China, Iran, Kenya, Ghana and Uzbekistan.

The State University of New York (SUNY) Korea is one of the campuses of Stony Brook University to open at the Incheon Global Campus (IGC), followed by George Mason University Korea, University of Utah Asia Campus and Ghent University Global Campus. Universities at the IGC are “extended campuses” of universities that are part of a global hub that fosters an atmosphere of industry-university-research cooperation and East-West intellectual and cultural exchange.

At SUNY Korea, students are offered degree programs comparable to prestigious schools in the U.S. where they can enjoy the American education while still being engaged in dynamic Korean culture. In spring 2013, the school saw its first undergraduate class of 38. This fall, the undergraduate enrollment is 133 students.

Still new in development, there’s not much to base statistics off on in order to tell what the graduation rate might be for undergraduates, masters and Ph.D. students. In fact, no undergraduate students have received their diplomas yet; however, this is expected to change in 2016. As the top educational hub in North East Asia, the IGC hosts universities and research institutions in hopes of fostering a diverse population of students from around the globe to become leaders in their fields.

Though SUNY Korea follows that same mission, students can only get degrees in computer science, mechanical engineering and technology systems management. Graduate students, however, can move forward by advancing their fields toward robotics or computational fluid dynamics.

This is not the only difference students are presented with when it comes to a unique university structure. Rather than taking a mix of major requirements and DECs each semester, students may only take major-related courses during their freshman, junior and senior years. However, as sophomores, students are required to spend the year at the Stony Brook campus where they can take a combination of both DECs and major courses.

SUNY Korea is expected to see the Fashion Institute of Technology that will serve as their art program. There’s also a possibility of opening a business program for students down the road, but that is yet to be confirmed.

Since its launch two years ago, SUNY Korea has been able to reach students across the world to foster a technology-driven global hub that brings a whole new level to global education and interconnectedness. As of October 2014, the school has a total population of 230 students, over 30 percent of them international. By 2021, they hope to increase that number to 2,000 students.

With more expansion, SUNY Korea will fulfill their mission in becoming a pioneer of a new global education paradigm without borders.

– Chelsee Yee

Sources: SB Statesman, Korea Herald, SUNY Korea, Scholarship SUNY
Photo: Asia Pacific Regional IGF

In South Korea, the annual college entrance exam weighs heavily on the shoulders of young people who see it as more than a rite of passage — it’s a make-or-break moment that defines whether they’ll have a successful life or not.

Korea has one of the best education systems in the world with high attendance and completion rates, but with that also comes a high psychological cost for students.

Earlier this month, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim spoke at a news conference in Seoul on the hyper-stressed, competitive levels characteristic of the South Korean education system that leaves students feeling worn and unhappy.

His advice? Cut down on private tutoring.

Dr. Kim sees private tutoring as a widespread and common practice that should be modified to improve education, especially since it could deepen inequality by creating an uneven playing field for the less wealthy.

According to The Wall Street Journal, South Korean parents paid $18 billion for private education last year to advance their children ahead in the college entrance exam.

More tutoring.  More expectations.  More pressure.

At the news conference, Dr. Kim pressed the issue of the psychological burden placed on students, suggesting that schools find a way to reduce the demands for tutoring and daylong study hours — even extending to private after-school institutions — to change the way parents and students approach education.

The pressure to succeed at school sets an unrealistic expectation that has pushed South Korean students to be at the top of global rankings for academic achievement.

A new global survey suggests that this academic pressure attributes to their low levels of happiness, ranking 75th out of 135 countries in wellbeing, which includes sense of purpose, social relationships and health.

According to BBC News, the most common form of death for those under 40 in South Korea is suicide. And while few would deem the country’s education system flawless, change is met with resistance.

The government is also aware of this pressing issue and is working to redress the balance.

“We still have a long way to go but we are doing some soul-searching in our society,” says the Education Minister Nam Soo Suh, “and our goals now are how to make our people happier.”

Chelsee Yee

Sources: The Diplomat, BBC, Wall Street Journal 1, Wall Street Journal 2
Photo: SCMP

South Korea Donates
Four years have passed since investigators discovered major fragments of a North Korean torpedo in a sunken South Korean warship. In the wake of this attack, South Korea imposed strict sanctions and refused to participate in any humanitarian aid helping North Korea, until now.

On August 11, South Korea pledged to donate $13.3 million to the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization. The aid South Korea donates will be strictly humanitarian and will provide food and medicine for malnourished babies and mothers.

The news is greatly welcomed by citizens of the North Korean capital Pyongyang, where assistance is sorely needed for a number of reasons. First, the country never quite recovered from a harsh famine in the 1990s. Secondly, two-thirds of the population relies on twice-monthly rations provided by the government. Even more distressing is the quality of the rations—they are often comprised of barley, maize, and rice, which means children and infants have severe protein deficiencies.

The North Korean government, which had already proved it was hardly capable of feeding 24 million citizens, suffered another setback due to a drought in 2012. Conditions worsened as a lack of clean water and sanitation led to diarrhea becoming the leading cause of death. In addition, North Korean healthcare, while free, is characterized by understaffed hospitals whose technology is decades old.

The promise of international foreign aid, especially from the state’s neighbor, is a gesture of goodwill and savvy politics in the context of previous fiascoes in foreign efforts.

The first of these was in 2011 when the U.N. called for $218 million in foreign aid for North Korea. Despite the dire need, only $85 million was reached. This is due in large to the fact that most of the world doesn’t trust Pyongyang to dole out the money for humanitarian efforts, but suspects money would be spent more on military efforts.

One year later, the U.N. again asked, this time for $198 million. The United States prepared 240,000 metric tons of food and other humanitarian aid. But the States retracted the offer when the benefactor-to-be tested a military rocket.

The proverbial door that South Korea has opened will have a positive net effect. Operating through the WFP and the WHO will make it more difficult for North Korea to allot funds for military opportunities. Yet the pledge was also the first step in reopening conversation between the countries separated by war six years ago.

The last high-level meeting between the two countries was in February, and was deemed a success. The Koreans managed to look past extreme tension caused by the North’s nuclear tests and threats of force, and agreed to let relatives from the countries visit one another for the first time in three years.

It is more than likely that South Korea will seek to arrange another grace period around September 8th. The day is the Korean Thanksgiving and is a holiday that places importance on the assembly of the family.

While North Korea has not responded yet, recent actions suggest the country has grown aware of the disadvantages of alienation and may place a higher premium on the quality of life of citizens. The country, once set on boycotting the Asian Games in the fall, has decided to send a national team to the event. It has also re-opened the case of two Japanese individuals who were kidnapped during the Cold War.

While the gestures might be symbolic, it is a step in the right direction.

– Andrew Rywak

Sources: New York Times 1, New York Times 2, Veooz, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, New York Times 3
Photo: The Guardian

korean human rights
The United Nations will be setting up a new office in South Korea to investigate North Korean human rights violations.

Claiming the South to be an important location for human rights activism, many influential South Korean human rights leaders have voiced their support for the move, including Tae-kyung of the governing Saenuri Party.

Tae-Kyung said the move  is inevitable and voiced the importance of the country’s cooperation with the U.N.

North Korean citizens are facing an oppressive governmental regime under their supreme leader, Kim Jong-Un. While the country’s constitution includes human rights protection, Kim Jong-Un’s regime has continuously banned, among others, political opposition, free media and religious freedom: all pillars of basic human rights. More grievous, the death penalty and prison camps are punishment for basic “crimes against the state” acts.

Many of these offenses are non-violent acts, such as stealing plate glass from a hanging photo of Kim Jong-Un. Once subjected to these camps, the prisoners are provided little to no medical care and face severe food shortages, torture and execution.

Between 80,000 and 120,000 prisoners are being held captive in these camps today.

Michael Kirby, the former Australian high court justice, demanded that North Korean leaders be tried in international court for their wrongdoings.

Kirby claimed that North Korean citizens may be the world’s most victimized population. In response, the U.N. has begun to act in accordance: Kim Jong-Un was sent a copy of his report indicating his severe crimes committed in order to ensure due process.

Jong-Un has yet to respond.

The U.N.’s new South Korean office, which is to be located in Seoul, is hoping to improve the efficacy of its investigations toward North Korean human rights violations. The U.N. believes its proximity may even help to limit the frequency and intensity of the crimes.

An important step toward ending North Korea’s crimes, South Korea’s role in the process to alleviate human rights grievances is a monumental step forward.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: Business Standard, The Guardian, HRW, The Wall Street Journal
Photo: The Sydney Morning Herald