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SPEA program takes students to South Korea to learn about globalization

When Indiana University student Leslie Leonard undertook a research project this spring on the relationship between South Korea and North Korea, she was able to go beyond reading what the experts have written about the topic.

She also traveled to South Korea, where she met with Chung-In Moon, a political science professor who was a close adviser to two South Korean presidents and a key developer of the "sunshine policy" aimed at improving relations between the two Koreas.

"Professor Moon is probably the best person in the world that I could have talked to about this topic," said Leonard, an Indianapolis native who will be a junior this fall at IU.

Scholars in Global Citizenship

Scholars in Global Citizenship participants pose for a photo at Yonsei University.

Print-Quality Photo

Leonard was one of 20 students taking part in the inaugural Scholars in Global Citizenship Program at the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The program, in which students examine the impact of globalization on fast-developing nations, included an eight-week course taught by SPEA Professor Matthew Auer, followed in May by a 10-day stay in South Korea hosted by Yonsei University.

Auer said South Korea was an obvious location for the program because of its remarkable economic growth and democratic development, combined with IU's extensive Korean alumni network and ties with Yonsei, one of the top three universities in the country.

Students applied to the program, and 20 were admitted. During the second half of the spring semester, they chose research projects related to the effect of globalization on South Korea's government, business and nonprofit sectors.

They read New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman's bestseller The World is Flat: a Brief History of the Twenty-first Century and other texts, and learned rudiments of Korean language. They heard from guest lecturers with expertise in Korea, including SPEA Emeritus Professor Roy Shin, Chancellor's Professor James Perry and Professor Lisa Blomgren Bingham.

Accompanied by Auer and SPEA adviser Stephanie Lewis, the students stayed on the Yonsei campus and attended custom-designed lectures and meetings arranged by university staff to fit with their research projects -- such as the luncheon talk and interview with Moon, who accompanied then President Kim Dae Jung on a landmark 2000 trip to North Korea and also advised president Roh Moo-hyun.

Eliah McCalla, a 2008 IU graduate from Nashville, Ind., learned more about the small but active South Korean environmental movement for his research project on wetlands preservation on the South Korean coast. "We met with the head of the government agency that does environmental impact statements, and we also met with an environmental group that's not affiliated with the government," he said.

Other projects included the effect of globalization on South Korean electoral politics, human trafficking in East Asia, juvenile crime, sustainable development and religious diversity. Students had until June 10 to complete term papers on their topics.

Assistance from Yonsei University and support from IU's Hutton International Experiences Program and Office of the President help keep the trip affordable. And while they stay focused on academic work and globalization issues, the students also were able to explore Seoul -- a crowded but friendly city of 10 million people -- experience Korean food and visit local karaoke bars with Yonsei host students. They also took a bus trip to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjeom, part of the so-called demilitarized zone between South Korea and North Korea, where the tension is palpable.

Auer said SPEA faculty hope to offer the program in South Korea again in the spring of 2009. In the future, he said, it could address globalization in other fast-changing countries, such as China and Russia. Information about the program is on the Web at http://www.iu.edu/~speaweb/academics/BA_SGCP.php.

Students said the experience gave them an opportunity to travel to and learn about a fascinating country and to challenge themselves by working with engaged and motivated peers.

"We learned a lot in the classroom about Korea, but I learned more in 10 days there than I could have in a whole semester in school," Leonard said. "You hear about it and hear about it, and then you go there and actually see it."