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Celebrating the Multifaceted Achievements of Associate Professor Hyung-A Kim
“If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.” – Milton Berne, American Actor and TV Personality
These words are simply so apt on this occasion, as we prepare to applaud the invaluable achievements and contributions of CHL’s very own Associate Professor Hyung-A Kim — just before she retires on 1 July 2022.
Because here is someone who dared to dream and build her own door for opportunity—not just to knock on the door, but to breeze right in!
An Institutional Success Story: the ANU Korea Institute
Looking back on Dr Kim’s many professional achievements, highlights, and memories, the one that immediately springs to mind is the pivotal role she has played in the conceptualisation and establishment of the ANU Korea Institute in October 2008, with a $US5 million endowment fund (the Korea Institute Endowment) provided by POSCO, South Korea’s largest steel company, together with BHP and Rio Tinto, the two largest Australian mining companies.
Dr Kim was central to this unique university-industry cooperation project, which took more than five years to establish, and aimed to foster a closer relationship between Australia and Korea through education, research and dialogue, especially focusing on political, economic and security studies on Korea.
Someone once said that “opportunities don’t happen, you create them.” The story of the ANU Korea Institute was actually born as a novel idea in Dr Kim’s mind while she was working as a Senior Research Fellow in Wollongong University.
“In 2004, I received a large grant from POSCO to host an international forum in Wollongong University on the theme, The Park Era: A Reassessment after 25 years, and this forum led me to propose my initial idea to establish a Korea Institute, especially linked to POSCO’s interest in supporting Korean studies in Australia.”
Dr Kim in her office in 2007-08
As a late starter in academia with her MA and PhD postgraduate degrees both conferred at ANU, Dr Kim moved to the then ANU Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS) in 2005. As a new RSPAS staff member, Dr. Kim says, she was extremely fortunate to have received strong support from both former Vice Chancellor Professor Ian Chubb and Professor James Fox, then Director of RSPAS, for her initial idea to establish a Korea Institute at ANU, tied especially to POSCO’s interest in supporting Korean studies in Australia. In this regard, the exchange of a memorandum between ANU and POSTECH (POSCO founded Pohang University of Science and Technology) in 2007 and ANU granting an Honorary Doctorate to Lee Ku-Taek, Chairman and CEO of POSCO, as well as Chairman of World Steel Association, in March 2008 were integral to the genesis of the Australia-Korea Leadership Forum and the Korea Institute.
After POSCO CEO Kyu-taek Lee’s Honorary Doctorate ceremony
The generous endowment enabled the Korea Institute to boost research, especially creating one continuing full-time senior research position which became her position; and one two-year continuing postdoc position, as well as several other research-related activities, including the AKLF. The Institute, especially by conducting the inaugural Australia-Korea Leader Forum in Canberra and again in Seoul as its annual program in 2008 and 2009, envisioned the promotion of greater engagement and cooperation in, and understanding of, the economic, political, cultural and scientific affairs that would mutually benefit both Australia and Korea.
Late President Roh Moo-hyun and Dr Kim in December 2008
Dr Kim’s research has been another career highlight, especially that which is related to South Korea’s rapid development since the early 1960s and thereafter.
Her first publication, Korea’s Development under Park Chung Hee: Rapid Industrialization, 1961-79 in both English (2003) and Korean (2005), initially enabled her to establish her academic reputation and identity as a leading Korea specialist and political historian. Global interest in her research on South Korea’s rapid development enabled Dr Kim to expand her academic scope to produce two more books in 2011 and 2020, including Korean Skilled Workers: Towards a Labor Aristocracy, and numerous articles in prominent journals and news media on the controversial development of Korean politics and society, as well as presenting papers and guest lectures at many institutions and conferences in Asia, Europe and North America, including Harvard University and Edinburgh University.
Dr Youngmi Kim (Senior Lecturer, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh) comments:
“Dr. Hyung-A Kim’s academic work has been a role model for many young academics, and as a scholar and colleague she has played a considerable influence in my work and career since I was a PhD student in the early 2000s. Among her many qualities and contributions, Hyung-A serves as a strong reminder that there is no single path to a PhD or an academic career. Just like her, I came to academia somewhat later than my peers, and looking at her experience has been inspirational as she proved that ‘we could do it’, outside the more traditional path.”
A former student of Dr Kim’s, Dr. Peter Banseok Kwon (Assistant Professor of Korean Studies, Department of East Asian Studies, University at Albany, SUNY) also comments:
“Professor Hyung-A Kim’s contributions to the field of Asian Studies/Korean Studies, as well as to my growth as a scholar, far surpass what I can put into words. Her path-breaking 2004 book, Korea’s Development under Park Chung Hee, has become a classic in the field and is essential reading for all students and scholars of development in South Korea and East Asia. Beyond her academic and intellectual support, her generosity and encouragement have deeply nurtured my development as a scholar.”
Hyunga with graduate students after a conference
So Long, Farewell…
On her relationship and association with the Institute, Dr Kim cites, “My career is inseparable from the Korea Institute, not only because it enabled my own academic career, but also because of its significance, especially in terms of its original aim to vastly enhance research in Korean studies, among other extended goals.”
The path that Dr Kim’s vision charted for the Australia-Korea relationship was holistic; the idea was to adopt the approach of fostering and nurturing ties across the political, economic, cultural, and social spectrums for greater bilateral collaboration in every walk of life.
Her drive and passion for the Institute remains strong today. The generous Endowment Fund of US$5 million secured now more than a decade ago holds promise of a bright future for the Institute in the support it can provide for the Institute to reach the heights Dr Kim always envisioned.
“With less than two weeks before my retirement on 1 July, I have a deep sense of gratitude and pride in having been privileged to be a member of the ANU family. I especially thank the friends and colleagues in the CHL and many other places abroad. And now that I will be working as Emeritus Senior Research Fellow, I am positive I will be the first but not the last cog in the wheel of the Korea Institute Endowment. My vision and hope for the future of the ANU Korea Institute is that the show will go on. The senior research position I hold is under the aegis of the only remaining research program funded by the ANU Korea Institute Endowment. And so, as I pass on the baton, I look forward to see the prospect of my successor carrying forward the Institute’s original aim and vision and taking it to greater heights. I will always be deeply connected with this mission, in mind and spirit.”
And with that, we wish you the very best for the future, Dr Kim. There is so much to celebrate, memories and chapters to reminisce; and there are new chapters to write with the legacy you’re leaving behind.
With sincere gratitude, we wish you farewell, Dr Kim.