Sunday, April 8, 2018

South Korea Blacklisting Think Tank Scholars for Criticizing Its North Korea Policy?

Foreign governments often demand a lot from the US think tanks they donate to.  In return for hundreds of thousands (and often times millions) of dollars each year, those foreign nations expect (and often demand) in return a specific outcome from the think tank product.  When a think tank does not tow the line, they often try to force out specific scholars, and, as a last resort, cut funding.

Here are a few excerpts from the One Free Korea blog, which is authored by Joshua Stanton:

The Chosun Ilbo and the Joongang Ilbo now report that the South Korean government directed the Korean Institute for International Economic Policy (KEIP) to cut most of its funding to Johns Hopkins University's US-Korea Institute (USKI), except for some Korean language and Korea studies training.  KIEP calls itself a "government-funded think tank," but it is a certain creation of South Korean law and has a "" web address.  And as you're about to see, it clearly takes its direction from the South Korean government.
Paradoxically, USKI is best known for publishing the reliably soft-line, anti-anti-North Korean, pro-"engagement" 38 North blog.  It's the last outlet you'd think Moon Jae-in's people would mess with.  USKI was founded in 2006, the year after the Korea Foundation pulled its funding from AEI.  According to USKI's website, it receives "generous support from the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP)," among others.  The Joongang Ilbo also reports that USKI runs a Korea training program for students entering the US State Department, which sounds like a great way to plant the seeds of long-term influence over our government's policies.
Not surprisingly, USKI and the KIEP have different explanations for KIEP's funding decision, and by the end of this post, you'll see why.  KIEP says the National Assembly demanded the cut over questions about transparency of USKI's budget.  But Robert Gallucci, the Director of USKI, says the real reason is that the Blue House wanted him to fire Jae Ku, one of the few right-of-center thinkers at USKI.  Later, Gallucci says the Blue House also told him to fire Jenny Town, a co-founded of 38 North.
Separately, a column in the Joongang Ilbo reports that the Moon administration has been blacklisting Korean and American scholars for criticizing its North Korea policy.  According to the column, the Sejong Institute's new management forced out David Straub, a highly respected Korea scholar, author, and former diplomat as a Visiting Researcher...Evidently, the Blue House objected to Straub's warnings that policy differences between Moon and Trump could lead to a "decoupling" of the US-Korea alliance. 

Johns Hopkins houses a variety of think tank and think tank-like entities, including the the Center for Transatlantic Relations and the the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI).

The following are some other Korea-related stories we've recently reported on:
  • Meet the one-man think tank on North Korea. 
  • Three of the top think tanks (Brookings, CSIS, Heritage) have former high-ranking CIA/intelligence officers running their Korea programs.
  • Following his canceled nomination as US Ambassador to Korea, CSIS's Victor Cha joins MSNBC team as a Korean affairs analyst.
  • A US spy agency is partnering with NGOs and think tanks to track North Korea.
  • North Korea is reaching out to think tanks to understand President Trump. 

Update:  The Associated Press (AP) is now reporting that USKI, which was receiving $1.8 million each year from the Korean government, will close after it rejected South Korean demands to change its leadership.  Officials at Johns Hopkins said up to eight people could lose their jobs.

The Washington Post's Anna Fifield has some more interesting details about the situation.