Posted : 2013-06-16 14:26
Updated : 2013-06-16 14:26

KDI School connects Korea with developing countries

Multicultural environment cultivates innovative ideas

Professor Jeffrey Robertson, left, engaged in discussion with international students during a class on June 10 at KDI School. / Korea Times photo by Yoon Sung-won
Front view of the KDI School building. / Courtesy of KDI School
Nam Sang-woo, dean of the KDI School / Courtesy of KDI School
By Yoon Sung-won

From the ashes of the Korean War (1950-53), Korea has achieved remarkable economic growth on the back of the government-led development drive. The nation's rapid transformation has been called the "Miracle on the Han River."

Accordingly, more students from developing nations have rushed to learn Korea's know-how on national development, and one graduate school has acted as a bridge between Korea and aspirants from other countries.

Located in Hoegi-dong, northeastern Seoul, the Korea Development Institute (KDI) School of Public Policy and Management was founded in December 1997 to train development economics experts, capable of leading global environmental and political changes.

The KDI is a state-run think tank that has been the center for social science research during the modern development of Korea. For that reason, the curriculum is specialized in public and development policy.

Two major programs at the KDI School, Master of Public Policy (MPP) and Master of Development Policy (MDP), are designed to provide global perspectives and expertise in the public and the development policy area, respectively.

Between the two programs, the MDP mainly targets those who are interested in development policymaking, such as government officials, development consultants and regional experts, and offers students opportunities to examine various issues of socioeconomic development in both theoretical and practical frameworks. The MDP program is also popular among students from developing countries because it deals with Official Development Assistance (ODA), official assistance administered to promote economic development in developing countries.

Both programs are available through full-time and part-time courses. The part-time course has classes on weekday evenings and Saturdays, and is restricted to residents of Korea only, according to the KDI School.

Though KDI School's MBA course has been closed since 2009, its faculty members and educational know-how have been transformed and diversified into the concentrated major courses for MPP and MDP. The concentrations include macroeconomics, social policy, regional development, environment, entrepreneurship and private sector development. "These concentration programs are particularly meaningful to those who have been working in the finance and industrial sector because they can learn theories and practices in their own fields, as well as legal, political and institutional capabilities," Nam Sang-woo, dean of the KDI School of Public Policy and Management, told The Korea Times' Business Focus.

"Korea already experienced a successful national development, becoming one of the leading global economies in the world. KDI School introduces such successful experiences to students, especially those from countries that are following a similar course of national development as Korea," the dean said. "By doing so, the graduate school is promoting co-prosperity and economic cooperation between Korea and these countries at the same time."

The student body of the KDI School has various professional backgrounds ranging from government agencies, public and private enterprises, and media firms, making it a better environment where more productive ideas can be incubated. Also, over half of the registered students are government employees from over 60 countries, and such diversification has formed a multicultural environment in which students can share different views over global development policies.

During a class titled "Resource Diplomacy," presided over by Professor Jeffrey Robertson on June 10, students of diverse nationalities and professions enthusiastically shared their views on the day's topic — securitization and militarization of resources.

Students grouped with classmates and discussed ideas from articles they read before class. After the discussion, the professor asked questions related to the core messages of the articles.

"Energy security has become central to national security nowadays, because conflicts between nations have become, and will be more about control over resources," Mohammed Al-Hadhrami, a student and a Yemeni diplomat, answered when asked about the militarization of energy security.

"Since there are both students who came from resource-supplying countries and resource-consuming ones in class, more diversified ideas over global energy and resource diplomacy issues, based on different interests and cultures, are discussed," said the professor. "Diverse ideas are welcomed here since they leads a more productive lesson."

Ha Ho-jeong, head of the KDI School's admission office, said that international exchange, dual degrees, and scholarship programs are prepared for students who want to expand their education on a global scale. With exchange programs with 38 universities and institutions overseas, students attend a year at the KDI School and another year at a partner school to acquire two master's degrees.

"Partner schools in the U.S., Europe and Asia include globally-renowned institutions Cornell, Duke, Michigan State and Tsinghwa University," she added. "Opportunities for various scholarships are also open to international students who are applying for full-time MPP or MDP programs."

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