Nitpicking Threatens 1st Korean-American Research Center

      December 21, 2009 13:21

      The opening of a research center for Korean-American studies at the University of California, Riverside, dedicated to late Col. Young-oak Kim, a second-generation Korean American and decorated soldier of World War II and the Korean War, is in danger of falling through. The Overseas Koreans Foundation (OKF), affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has failed to provide the first installment of W500 million (US$1=W1,177), which already received National Assembly approval, saying no memorandum of understanding has yet been signed.

      The foundation has promised to provide W3 billion out of the US$7 million needed to establish the research center, and the Korean support was to come in three separate payments -- W500 million, W1 billion and W1.5 billion -- over three years.

      Kim won the U.S. Medal of Honor as well as orders of military merit from Italy, France and Korea. Kim was a role model for Korean Americans, answering the call of his adopted country and sacrificing his life for the land of his parents. That is why UC Riverside has offered to invest $3 million to open a research center bearing his name to study Korean American culture, Korean War veterans and Koreans adopted overseas. Seoul had pledged funding for, saying it would boost the sense of identity and pride of Korean Americans while strengthening Seoul-Washington relations.

      The reason MOU has been delayed is because the Overseas Koreans Foundation is insisting on a clause binding UC Riverside to return the funding if the research center is not established. UC Riverside says the existing contract already contains a clause preventing any further support from being made by the OKF if the foundation is unable to find more funding and it is asking too much to seek a repayment of existing funds if the research center cannot be opened due to funding problems caused by the foundation.

      The OKF's intention to take preventive action for the effective management of Korean government money is understandable. But both the OKF and UC Riverside have already agreed to resolve potential disputes according to Korean law, so the repayment is already guaranteed. It is wrong to prevent the opening of the first research center in the U.S. dedicated to studying Korean Americans by making unreasonable demands.

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