WIU's Korea Connection
May 21, 2014
MACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University's Korea connection spans more than three decades, beginning with Gwangju University's founder In-Kon Kim.
Kim, who devoted his life to Gwangju, received an honorary doctorate from WIU in 1983. Kim, referred to at Gwangju University as Founder Kim, endowed a special scholarship for Korean students at WIU, and arranged for student exchanges, because of his friendship with President Emeritus Leslie Malpass. His son, Hyuk-Jong Kim, Gwangju's current president, called Western home in the 1980s, earning a master's degree in education from WIU. He also received the International Alumni Achievement Award and was the inaugural recipient.
Throughout the years, both Kims have sent many students from Gwangju to Western to continue their education. A museum in honor of the elder Kim was established at Gwangju and a section of the Kim Museum is dedicated to Western Illinois University, including In-Kon's cap and gown from WIU.
Currently, Kim's son, Dong Jin (DJ), completed his master's degree in education at Western and is now enrolled in the University's education doctorate degree program. The Kims' connection to the University was brought full circle recently when President Jack Thomas and Rick Carter, executive director of the School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach, traveled across the ocean to visit the Kims and other WIU alumni in Korea.
During their week-long trip to South Korea, Thomas and Carter met with Hyuk Jong and other Gwangju University officials, as well as leaders from Ewha Womans University, where current WIU Study Abroad student Samantha Lack has been attending school for two semesters. A special ceremony was also held for Jayhyuk Lee, a WIU Bachelor of General Studies degree student, to present him with his diploma and an Alpha Sigma Lambda honor stole and induction certificate. The pair also presented alumna Min Young Song, of Global Education Inc., with a Certificate of Appreciation for her efforts on behalf of WIU. In addition, Carter and Thomas hosted an alumni event in Seoul and met with WIU Geography Professor Emerita Si Young Park, who teaches at Gwangju University.
Western boasts more than 350 alumni from South Korea, and currently has 15 Korean students attending the Macomb campus. Fifteen students from Gwangju will arrive at WIU this summer to begin Western's English as a Second Language (WESL) program.
"Our partnership with Gwangju University, as well as with Ewha Womans University and others, has resulted in Western Illinois University being considered as the premier institution for students from South Korea to earn their English language certificates, their bachelor's degrees and their graduate degrees," Thomas said. "We greatly appreciate Dr. Kim's, Dr. Song's and Dr. Park's efforts on Western's behalf in their country. They are outstanding examples of the successful professionals we are proud to call WIU alumni and friends."
Carter and Thomas also visited students at Gwangju University, including those who have previously studied English at WIU and those students who will be at Western this summer.
"Dr. Si Young Park, our many alumni and our friends in South Korea are wonderful advocates for Western Illinois University," Carter noted. "We are honored by our relationships and friendships with so many individuals throughout this beautiful country."