Johns Hopkins University is to shut down the U.S.-Korea Institute, the only think tank in Washington specializing in Korean affairs, after the Korean government decided to cut off its funding. Seoul has provided USKI with W20 billion in aid since 2006 (US$1=W1,069).
USKI chairman Robert Gallucci, who was chief U.S. negotiator during the 1994 North Korean nuclear crisis, told the Associated Press that he could not accept “utterly inappropriate meddling” in scholarly research, prompting the decision to shut down the think tank next month. USKI was pressured by Seoul to replace its right-leaning chief, Ku Jae-hee, and when it refused, the state-run Korea Institute for International Economic Policy decided to turn off the spigot.
Gallucci said the South Korean government “has no authority” to demand personnel changes at USKI and added that the dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins has praised the think tank’s achievements. Gallucci added that he demanded the South Korean government to provide evidence back up its allegations of mismanagement, but had “gotten zero.”
“This is a peculiar time to decide to screw with an institute whose purpose is [South Korea]-U.S. relations, just when you have got two summits coming up,” he said. Dean Vali Nasr told Gallucci and Ku that USKI will be shut down on May 11 since U.S. labor law requires at least a one month’s notice of a company’s closure.
But the website 38 North, which is run by the institute and often provides invaluable intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear program, will be split off as a separate think tank using US$2 million in support from the MacArthur Foundation. USKI researcher Joel Wit will head 38 North.
USKI originally decided to hold a press conference in response to the funding halt, but had to cancel it as its closure was announced. Seoul is apparently considering retaining USKI’s Korean studies professors at SAIS.
An internal KIEP memo suggests that the pressure to replace Ku came directly from Cheong Wa Dae, which does not like his politics. But the presidential office denies this and says the decision to cut USKI’s funding was prompted by the National Assembly and due to lack of transparency and sloppy management.