University President Steven Knapp traveled to South Korea last week to attend the inauguration of the country’s new president, who taught international business at GW in 1999 as a visiting scholar.
In addition to celebrating President Lee Myung-bak’s transition into power, Knapp took the trip as a way to strengthen the University’s long relationship with South Korea.
“There is a tremendous interest on the part of our alumni in learning about the University, and being more strongly connected with the University as their intellectual and cultural home in Washington,” Knapp said in a e-mail sent from Taiwan, where he was also meeting alumni who are now leaders in the fields of business, law and higher education.
Knapp last visited South Korea in December to attend an event hosted by GW’s Alumni Association in Seoul. He said he looks forward to hosting Lee, who expressed interest in visiting the District again.
Notable South Korean alumni include the CEO of South Korea’s powerhouse conglomerate Samsung, the first Korean to earn a medical degree in the United States and the first president of South Korea.
Today, GW’s largest alumni network outside of North America is in South Korea, with more than 800 former students participating in the alumni association based in Seoul, said Matt Lindsay, director of alumni communications.
Data from GW’s Office of Institutional Research also shows that last school year more than 200 South Korean international students enrolled at the University, making South Korea the second-most represented country at GW.
International students said the high number is due to GW’s reputation abroad.
“GW has an Ivy League status in Korea,” sophomore Hye Jin Han said. “Everyone recognizes the name.”
GW is so popular among Koreans that the University considered building a satellite campus there in 2004, but the plan fell through. According to a May 2007 article in the English version of the Hankyoreh, a South Korean newspaper, GW exchanged a memorandum of understanding expressing interest in establishing a branch campus on Jeju Island, a self-governing province located south of the mainland.
The Center for International Science and Technology Policy at GW has five partnerships with Korean colleges, and the Sigur Center for Asian Studies in the Elliott School has six visiting scholars from South Korea.
Knapp, who has already visited London, Paris, Hong Kong, Seoul, Beijing and Taipei in his short time as president, will also travel soon to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and concentrate on meeting alumni in the U.S. for the rest of the semester.
Knapp said his trips confirmed his impression that alumni are interested in maintaining the sense of a GW throughout the world and community throughout their lives.
He said, “I think we have an extraordinary opportunity to develop that community in ways that will increase the visibility and reputation of the university, while at the same time opening doors for our students as they go on to develop their careers and their personal lives in cities around the world.”