In February, the University of Missouri launched the Institute for Korean Studies (IKS). IKS serves as a nexus for research about the Korean peninsula. Though there has been previous academic research on Korea at MU, only recently did a group of faculty members come together to establish the research institute. Sheena Greitens, assistant professor of political science, and Harrison Kim, assistant professor of history, are co-directors of IKS. The institute is housed in the College of Arts and Science and is currently under the auspices of the Vice Provost for International Programs.
MU has a long-standing relationship with the Korean peninsula. In 1989, former US President Truman established the Truman Conference to support a free-tuition program for distinguished Korean students following the Korean War; now the conference is one of MU’s oldest international initiatives, and one of the university’s largest international alumni chapters. Since the 1950s, hundreds of Korean scholars have pursued degrees at MU and more than 200 Korean students as well as nearly 100 Korean visiting scholars and professionals are presently on campus. Additionally, Korean students at MU have established a Korean Student Association.
Missouri and South Korea have maintained a close relationship in many respects. Columbia is a sister city with Suncheon, South Korea, and Jeollanamdo Province is Missouri’s sister state in the country. South Korea also remains a key trading partner for Missouri. In 2015, Missouri imported $228 million in goods from South Korea and exported $435.4 million in goods to the country. Top trading commodities are transportation equipment, chemicals, food manufacturing goods, computer and electronic products, and minerals and ores. In addition to this significant trade relationship, Missouri has been popular among Korean students. In the 2014-2015 academic year, approximately 930 Korean students studied at universities in Missouri, a nearly 10% increase from the previous year.
Xiaoyi Wang is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington, D.C. She is a graduate student at Georgetown University.