Humphrey alums in Korea! Update from Sherry Gray

Readers, I was fortunate for the opportunity to visit a number of Humphrey alumni in South Korea recently.  For three weeks I traveled around Korea on a sort of tour de alumni meeting former students and international fellows.

First stop was Seoul and two MPP alums, Sarah Yeo (2012) and Kiwook Ha (2014, known during his HHH days as "Haggie") who each worked with me on their Global Policy Area capstone projects, Sarah with Global Deaf Connection (Jamaica) and Haggie with D-Prize (San Francisco).  They are both recently married and living their career dreams by working with nonprofits in the field of international development, Sarah as Evaluation and Research Officer for World Vision Korea and Haggie as Program Coordinator for ChildFund Korea.  

My next stop was the new Korean government administrative center of Sejong, about one hour by express train south of Seoul. Sejong is a brand new city arising from former farmland, surrounded by low, green mountains that  incorporates many sustainability initiatives to make it truly a "green city."  There I met our friend Yuri Lee, who was in Minnesota for two years with her family (her husband a fellow at HHH), and Moojo Son, who was a Humphrey Fellow at the HHH 2009-2011.  Moojo together with Gary DeCramer and Sudha Shetty wrote an MOU to support Republic of Korea government officials studying at the Humphrey School.  Moojo is Director of the Executive Training Division of the ROK's Ministry of Personnel Management and a fervent UofM supporter!

From there, I met our first (and so far, only) Government of Korea MPA Fellow Yoontaik Kim (2014) and traveled with him for several days around Damyang County, a gorgeous rural area famous for mountain parks and Buddhist temples, ancient fortresses, bamboo groves and great vegetables. Yoontaik was a member of the first cohort of international fellows with whom I worked, starting in late 2012.  He works for the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, as a human rights officer that investigates discriminatory practices and complaints and handles international cooperation with foreign human rights institutions.  His work leads him to assist with human rights issues involving foreigners with legal troubles in Korea and, when bilateral negotiations are required, have taken him around the world to various countries for work.

From Damyang, I traveled to the ancient Silla capital of Gyeongju where today's inhabitants live surrounded by history, as large grassy tombs, restored palaces, and numerous archeological sites are woven throughout, giving the city the well deserved nickname "outdoor museum."  There I was hosted by former Humphrey Fellow Jin Hyuk-Her (2010-12 at the Humphrey School) who, like all the former Korea Humphrey Fellows, was in residence at HHH for two years.  Alas, the Korean government has ended its participation in the Humphrey Fellowship program! Jin and his family gave us a warm welcome in Gyeongju and shared many stories of their two years in Minnesota.  Jin is a police officer in Gyeongju who works on issues concerning international visitors and residents.  He speaks Arabic and, while at the HHH, developed further his passion for someday working on forestry initiatives in the Middle East. Pictured here with Jin's wonderful family, all of whom gave a warm welcome.

While in Gyeongju I visited the family of current MPP candidate Sumee Lee who hosted a luncheon at their stables.  Memories of Minnesota were traded cheerfully among the participants!  Sumee's father, Dr. Choungseop Lee, is an alum of the UMN, Ph.D. in Veterinary Medicine, and he and his family lived near the Saint Paul campus for many years. We were joined by Sumee's mother and sisters, Jin Hyuk-Her's family, Prof. Sang-chul Lee (UMN Ph.D. in Communications) and a host of horses--Sumee's family lives on a large acreage in Gyeongju where they raise Shetland ponies and now Quarterhorses; her mother Sook-Hee is an Academy Trainer at the Gyeongju YMCA and brings children to the horse barns for educational programs.  We had a fun visit and are pictured here in the horse training paddock.

I ended the tour de alumni in Samcheok, where I met former Humphrey Fellow and MPA alum Jun Sup Han (2013), who also worked with me on his capstone project, the client was Advocates for Human Rights.  Jun Sup is Superintendent of Police in Samcheok and enjoying his life in that beautiful sea-side town, together with his lovely family.  Jun Sup has a strong interest in global security management, and in creating preventative action plans and “perfect and peaceful” countermeasures for violent protest and terrorism that may occur in connection with international events. He earned a degree in Police Administration from the Korea National Police University and is contemplating his next career move in coming years.  He and his family gave us a good introduction to the area, including a visit to the gorgeous Samcheok rose garden and a stop by the UNESCO recognized Danoje traditional festival in the town of Gangneung, where we enjoyed watching traditional dance and sports competitions and eating lots of great food.  It reminded us all of Minnesota's State Fair!

I left Korea last week bearing good memories of a lovely country with excellent food, beautiful mountains, and citizens kind to foreign visitors.  I am proud of the many talented and kind alumni from the University of Minnesota and the Humphrey School I met on my trip.  I returned to Minnesota pleased that the work our faculty and staff do to support international students, scholars and fellows is important in creating these fine networks of loyal alumni around the world.

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