Thursday, October 11, 2012
Dr. Heung Soo Sim, a professor of political science at Gyeongsang National University in South Korea, is spending the 2012-13 academic year at Rider as a Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence. The Fulbright appointment is the second such experience for Sim, who spent the 2006-07 academic year with the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.
Sim actually visited Rider’s Lawrenceville campus in 2002 to explore the possibility of an exchange program between the University and Gyeongsang National University (GNU), where he served at the time as dean of Language Education and International Programs.
“It did not work out, but I was impressed by the serene academic setting and family-like, cordial atmosphere at Rider,” said Sim, who met then with Dr. Phyllis Frakt, the now-retired provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Joseph Nadeau, who has since retired as dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Education, and Sciences.
As one of two teaching Fulbright scholars chosen by the Korean Fulbright Commission in December 2011, Sim was able to select his destination. The positive tenor of his initial meetings at Rider, as well as the presence of a familiar name on campus, made the University an appealing choice to him.
“I chose Rider myself. My knowledge of Rider University as a prestigious institution of higher learning goes back some years,” Sim explained. “I became familiar with the name when Professor Seiwoong Oh (now chair of the Department of English), with whom I had studied at West Texas State University some 30 years ago, got a teaching position here.”
This semester, Sim is teaching a Political Science course called Korea and its Neighbors, in which he discusses the nation and its interactions with neighboring countries, from past to present. He said that he will place particular emphasis on the demise of Joseon Dynasty, which declined quickly in the late 1800s after nearly five centuries, as well as on the nation’s Japanese occupation, the politics of division, and the Korean War. Sim will also explain recent inter-Korean relations, with particular regard to the North Korean nuclear weapons program and the dilemmas they pose to South Korea, Northeast Asia and the world.
Sim also hopes to impart knowledge of the Korean people and culture on his students at Rider.
“They might be surprised to learn that vestiges of Confucianism are strongly alive in Korea, much more than in China or in Japan,” he said. “That means that Korea is a society based on the organic nature of our existence, which is remarkably different from America, which puts the utmost emphasis on individual rights.”
As for lighter cultural fare, Sim noted that students in the United States are likely aware of at least one Korean entertainer – the singer/rapper Psy, whose single “Gangnam Style” had been viewed more than 430 million times on YouTube as of October 11.
Sim, who earned his Ph.D. at Tulane University in 1996, is the director of the Center for Unification and Peace Research of GNU’s Institute for Global and Area Studies. Since 2010, he has also served as the vice president and research director of the 21st Century Political Science Association. Sim has taught at the 20,000-student Gyeongsang National University, one of the top 10 national universities in Korea, for 15 years. His time there includes stints as the chair of the Division of Political Science and Public Administration, in 2008-09, dean of the School of Language Education and International Programs from 2003 to 2005, and chair of the Department of Political Science and the Graduate Department of International Relations in 2002-03, among other administrative appointments.
In the spring, Sim will teach a class entitled Will China Be the Next Superpower? Asian Relations in the Pacific Era. Until then, he remains dedicated to extending his own knowledge. During his first month in Lawrenceville, he has become particularly intrigued by Dr. Jonathan Mendilow’s project on political corruption and political hygiene.
“It’s quite interesting and relevant to my research interests,” he said of Mendilow, the chair of Rider’s Political Science department, and his work. “So I would like to learn more about his projects and possibly apply his framework to some aspects of Korean politics.”
Still, Sim’s year in New Jersey won’t be entirely classroom-based.
“I would like to study a little, teach a little, rest a little, and travel a little,” he said. “Also, as a goodwill ambassador of Fulbright, I would like to tell American audience about Korea, its culture and history, and the importance of peace and prosperity in Asia as well as in the world.”