by WorldTribune Staff, April 9, 2018
South Korea’s liberal government has cut funding to a U.S.-based think tank which has provided significant intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear program, a report said.
Jae H. Ku, the director of the U.S.-Korea Institute (USKI) at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, suggested that Seoul had a political motive for cutting $1.87 million in government funding, hinting that the Moon Jae-In administration seeks to exclude those close to former conservative administrations from government-related institutes.
“I believe (Cheong Wa Dae) assumes I am close to Lee Jae-Oh, an associate of former conservative President Lee Myung-Bak, as he was a visiting scholar here,” Ku said, according to a Korea Times report on April 8.
Cheong Wa Dae is the Korean name of Seoul’s presidential “Blue House”.
“Even though I am categorized as a conservative, close to Republicans in the U.S., the USKI has served as a cradle of dovish experts such as (Robert) Gallucci and Joel Wit,” he added.
Gallucci was the chief U.S. negotiator during the 1994 North Korean nuclear crisis.
The think tank, which runs 38 North specializing in North Korean affairs, has received 2 billion won ($1.87 million) from the government annually through the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP), the Korea Times report said.
The KIEP cited “lax reporting on accounts and a lack of transparency in selecting visiting scholars and interns,” for the funding cut. KIEP has reportedly requested the resignation of Ku, and Jenny Town, vice director of USKI, a request the think tank dismissed. Ku has headed the organization since 2007.
Gallucci, the chairman of USKI, denounced the move as an “intervention on academic freedom.” He said he will send a letter to President Moon in protest.
“In recent days, some media reports said the Moon administration allegedly attempted to oust conservative experts from think tanks,” the report said.
On April 4, the JoongAng Ilbo reported that David Straub, who was working as the Sejong-LS Fellow at the Sejong Institute, was forced to leave after being “blacklisted” by Cheong Wa Dae.
However, the institute requested a correction on the report, saying a one-year contract with Straub was terminated on Feb. 28.
Cheong Wa Dae also said it wouldn’t tolerate reports based on false information, hinting at legal measures if the newspaper does not correct its report.