Why was HUFS picked as Obama’s speech venue?
United States President Barack Obama’s speech at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) Monday will certainly become a boon for the university to promote its image as a global school.
But why was it picked, leaving other universities jealous? This was the first time for an incumbent U.S. president to visit and give a speech at a university here.
An official of the U.S. Embassy said the embassy suggested some schools and it was the White House that picked HUFS.
“The White House asked us to recommend some candidate schools, presenting some conditions. After we did, the White House selected. We don’t know the exact criteria, but various things must have been considered, such as the size of the school, school reputation and security issues,” the official said.
An official from HUFS said it seems the embassy looked for a suitable school in January and February and the school was informed of the final decision only five days before the event.
“We don’t know exactly why we were picked but we presume the school’s image agreed with Obama’s philosophy, pursuing multilateral, peaceful diplomacy and emphasizing foreign language study,” he said.
The university provides lectures in 45 languages, and Obama said in his speech, “This school has one of the world’s finest foreign language programs.” HUFS also has held International Model United Nations Assemblies for collegians every year since 1995.
It is also said the North Korean defector issue may have affected the speech venue selection, as many students who have defected from the North are enrolled at HUFS compared to other schools. In his speech, Obama mentioned North Korean defectors by saying: “Come and see some of the courageous individuals who join us today _ men and women, young and old, born in the North, but who left all they knew behind and risked their lives to find freedom and opportunity here in the South.”
Among the school’s 20,000 students, 700 were lucky to attend the speech through a random selection process.
Na In-ae, a senior majoring in interpretation and translation of Italian, said she arrived at the speech venue at 6:50 a.m. for the event scheduled for 10:30 a.m. but a lot of students were already in a queue.
“I had heard Obama has a keen interest in Korea but I didn’t feel like it was real. But watching him speak about Korean mobile messenger Kakao Talk, I realized he really does and I was proud. Also he came to my school, and it seemed that HUFS was really a global school in the way that it has always promoted itself,” she said.