Oh Se-hoon, the mayor of the Republic of Korea’s capital city of Seoul, visited Yale on Thursday. He met with Yale President Peter Salovey, toured the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and delivered a lecture on Seoul’s approach to inclusive growth at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. While the visit was Oh’s first as mayor, he attended Yale Law School as a visiting scholar in 1998.
The visit began with a lunch gathering with Korean faculty members from across multiple Yale departments and schools, including former Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun, as well as Professors Hwansoo Kim, Hee Oh, and Jiwoong Shin. After the meal, Oh and the faculty members continued informal discussion on a variety of topics while walking around campus and stopping at local attractions.
Accompanied by reporters from South Korean media outlets, Oh then went on a tour of the Beinecke Library, guided by the library’s community engagement director Michael Morand and Yale’s first librarian for Korean Studies Jude Yang. The group was shown around the public exhibition hall on the upper level, before being led down to the reading room, where Oh looked through archival materials regarding Yale and South Korea, including the written works of Korean American Yale alumni.
Oh then met with President Salovey who had traveled to South Korea during the Spring semester to strengthen Yale’s ongoing engagement in the region. The two discussed the mayor’s office focus on making education accessibility a priority to help low-income families achieve greater social mobility. Salovey noted that Yale has also been focused on lowering barriers to studying here so that financial need is not an impediment to attending Yale College, even for international students.
They also discussed increasing participation in the Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) program. Salovey remarked, “I’m pleased that Yale and Seoul are partnering to help top achieving students from low-income families attend the YYGS program. I hope that our combined efforts will inspire and create more opportunities for bright young students in Seoul.”
At the conclusion of the meeting Salovey said, “Today’s visit exemplifies Yale’s commitment to build new connections and strengthen existing relationships between Yale and partners in Korea. Our extensive global networks play a vital role in realizing Yale’s mission of making a positive difference worldwide.”
After the meeting, Oh delivered a lecture about his city government, titled ‘Seoul, My Soul: Going Together With The Socially Neglected — Grappling With Polarization & Inclusive Growth,’ to a packed audience at the MacMillan Center. Professor Hwansoo Kim, who is also chair of Yale’s Council on East Asian Studies, introduced Oh. The mayor spoke about his goals which include increasing educational equity and decreasing income disparity domestically while continuing to support developing countries through financial aid and volunteerism.
The talk was followed by a lively Q&A session moderated by Erik Harms, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Council on Southeast Asia Studies. He noted that the turnout — a fully seated auditorium, with attendees filling every available space — was a clear indication of the Yale community’s strong interest in Korea and Korean Studies. During the Q&A, the mayor answered questions about pressing issues including Seoul’s high housing prices and competitive educational environment, the climate crisis, and the role of women and gender minorities in South Korea.
The visit concluded with a reception at which Oh met with a variety of Yale faculty members, students, and well-wishers. Of course no trip to New Haven is complete without pizza, which was enjoyed al fresco style just outside Luce Hall.
Jieun Pyun, Director for Asia in Yale’s Office of International Affairs, who helped coordinate the visit, stated afterwards, “As collaboration between Yale and Seoul continues to develop, we are hopeful for future partnerships to develop to enhance connections between Yale and South Korea.”
To view a slideshow of photos from the visit click the image below:
To view the video recording of Mayor Oh’s Lecture, click the image below:
To learn more about President Peter Salovey’s trip to South Korea, visit the YATW website.
To view photos taken at the reception, visit the MacMillan Center Photo Gallery.