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The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) of Kyungnam University is an independent, nonpartisan, academic-oriented think tank that began with the purpose to study and analyze the economies and societies of the (former) communist bloc countries and the developing world, including China and North Korea, as well as relations among states and non-state actors in East Asia.

Originally founded under the name ‘Tonghan Institute of Kyungnam University’ on September 1, 1972, the institute was renamed on March 10, 1973, with Dr. Jae Kyu Park becoming its director.

Considering its pioneering mandate and independent establishment in South Korea during the height of the Cold War, the institute would face an uphill battle in its development. Nevertheless, in April 1973 the IFES held in Washington D.C. its first ever international conference under the title “Korea and Its Surrounding Powers.”

Soon realizing that in order to properly carry out its mandate to conduct research on North Korea and reunification issues, the institute would need to have its researchers analyze North Korean and other communist-related materials, which were (and remain) heavily restricted in South Korea. In May 1973 the IFES gained rare authorization from the ROK Ministry of Education to handle for research purposes these types of “forbidden publications.”

In January 1974 the institute held in Seoul the large-scale international conference “The Peace and Security of Northeast Asia”—a first for the institute and Korea itself. In 1976, Asian Perspective, the institute’s English-language social sciences journal of comparative politics and world affairs, was launched, and its inaugural issue appeared spring 1977.

With its increasing activities and staff, by 1979 the institute relocated to its current and iconic ‘blue roof’ residence in downtown Seoul.

Over the decades, the IFES would boldly adjust to the major geopolitical shifts taking place globally and manifold developments impacting the Korean peninsula significantly. In the 1980s, this included the addition of specialized research centers on not only domestic and foreign policy and strategy but also specific countries/regions (i.e., North Korea, China, USSR, US, Japan, and Southeast Asia). In 1985 the institute published the first issue of the Korean-language journal Korea and World Politics, and in 1986 embarked on its “Communist bloc field research education”—several years before South Korea normalized diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China or the Soviet Union—which eventually led to the signing of memorandums of understanding with Renmin University and later the Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences (now the Russian Academy of Sciences).

In the 1990s, the IFES continued to proactively strengthen its international ties. Among its cooperative outreach, the IFES signed MOUs with highly-regarded research universities in Vietnam, China, Thailand, the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. It also embarked on the co-publication of Asian Perspective with Portland State University in 1995. As well, on the foundation of the substantial research activities of the IFES and its own higher education programs, Kyungnam University transformed its department of North Korean Studies into the Graduate School of North Korean Studies in 1998.

In the 2000s, the IFES took further steps to enhance the quality of research and adapt to the then rapidly changing inter-Korean relations. As part of this effort, the institute opened cyber courses on North Korean studies and strengthened cooperation with various corporations and organizations involved in inter-Korean projects. The IFES also established the Academy of Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation (now the IFES Academy of Korean Unification Economy) to provide practical assistance in the promotion of inter-Korean cooperation. In 2005 the institute established an academic partnership with the renowned Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a partnership that has focused primarily on Cold War history research. In 2006 the IFES signed an MOU with North Korea’s National Reunification Institute to pursue academic exchanges and cooperation. Recognition for the quality of the institute’s research output came in many forms, including raising the journal’s profile internationally as Asian Perspective ascended to the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) in 2008.

In the 2010s, the institute continued to produce and expand the quality and quantity of research on North Korea and reunification issues, as well as broadened the scope of its interactions with domestic and international institutions. For instance, the IFES signed agreements with research institutes from the US, China, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, and Singapore, and signed MOUs with 40 research institutes from 16 different countries. Highlighting the institute’s many achievements during this period, the IFES in conjunction with the ROK Ministry of Unification organized the high-profile Korea Global Forum (currently the Korea Global Forum for Peace) in 2015 and 2018 and therefore hosted several conferences in key geopolitical centers and cities around the world to promote international dialogue in the search of strategies to bring lasting peace to the Korean Peninsula. Thanks in part to these and other activities, in 2018 Kyungnam University was selected as the “leading university in unification education” and the IFES itself was awarded the DMZ Peace Prize by Gangwon Province and Kangwon Ilbo. In 2019, the institute further enhanced its global collaborations by commencing publication of Asian Perspective with America’s oldest and one of its largest university presses, Johns Hopkins University Press, thus capping off nearly five decades of scholastic accomplishments of the IFES, which include the holding of over 150 international conferences and publication of more than 150 books.

As in the past, despite the complexities facing the Korean Peninsula, East Asia, and the globe, the IFES remains steadfast in carrying out its mission and goals to foster peace, reconciliation, and unification of Korea, paying close attention to the multifaceted developments in the political, economic, security, and sociocultural realms, while supporting new research trends in various fields that enhance the institute’s core work with institutional partners in order to deepen our collective understanding of the challenges humanity faces and to promote peace worldwide.

2010

2010 history
2019.04.26 MOU with Institute for Unification Integration, Incheon National University.
2018.02.21 Inauguration of Prof. Lee Kwan-Se as the 12th director.
2018.01.18 MOU with Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, China.
2017.08.29 MOU with Jilin University Center for Northeast Asian Studies, China.
2016.11.04 MOU with Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, China.
2015.11.03 MOU with Embassy of Canada to Korea.
2015.04.14 MOU with Eastern Liaoning University, China.
2015.03.26 MOU with Center for European Strategic Research(CESR), Italy.
2015.03.13 MOU with Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia(ERINA), Japan.
2014.10.03 MOU with Graduate Institute of East Asian Studies, National Chengchi University of Taiwan.
2014.10.02 MOU with Tamkang University, Taiwan.
2014.09.17 MOU with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China.
2014.04.25 MOU with Yanbian Universtiy, China.
2014.04.10 MOU with Korea Development Institute.
2014.04 Establishment of South-North Korea Economic Cooperation Experts Program 「IFES Unified Economics Academy」
2014.03.29 Publication of the Online Policy Forum, 『IFES Issues and Analysis』
2014.03 Inauguration of Prof. Yoon, Dae-Kyu as the 11th director.
2013.12.12 MOU with Institute for Political Science and Sociology, Bonn University, Germany.
2013.12.06 MOU with the Institute for Korean Studies, Waseda University, Japan.
2013.10.18 MOU with China Association for International Friendly Contract.
2013.09.13 MOU with East Asia History and Culture Research Center, Beihua University, China.
2013.09 Support Program for Outstanding Emerging Scholars called 「Magma Fellowship」
2012.10.31 MOU with Dalian University, China.
2012.09.01 40 Year Anniversary of the Institute.
2012.02 Signed Project Cooperation Agreement with Gyeongnam Development Institute (GNDI, President Lee, Eun-Jin) and Establishment of Academy of Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation.
2011.12.01 Launch of the Advanced Research Center Program on the “Economic Transition of North Korea and Global Governance” by the National Research Foundation of Korea.
2011.11.10 MOU with Choson Exchange SG, Singapore.
2011. Publication of Annual Policy Report 『Focus on Korean Peninsula』
2011. Commercial Publication of Asian Perspective by Lynne Reinner Publishers.
2010. Reorganization of 「Hanma Unification Leadership」, a Training Program for the Undergraduate·Graduate Student.

2000

2000 history
2009.05.01 Publication of Quarterly Policy Report 『Focus on Korean Peninsula』
2009.02.13 MOU with Department of East Asian Studies, University of Vienna, Austria.
2009.02 Inauguration of Prof. Lee, Su-Hoon as the 10th director.
2008.12.01 Launch of the Advanced Research Center Program on the “Order of Northeast Asia and Economic Transition of North Korea” by the National Research Foundation of Korea.
2008.09.03 MOU with National Chengcui University, Taiwan.
2008. English Academic Journal Asian Perspective Listed on SSCI.
2007.11.01 MOU with Center for Korean Studies, IRI, National University of La Plata, Argentina.
2007.08.20 MOU with The Institute for Security and Development Policy, Sweden.
2006.09.15 MOU with Foundation for Contemporary Understanding of the East German dictatorship, Germany.
2006.09.15 MOU with the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship(Stiftung Aufarbeitung), Germany.
2005.12.01 Launch of the Advanced Research Center Program on the “Economic Transition of North Korea and International Cooperation” by the National Research Foundation of Korea.
2005.03 Inauguration of Prof. Yoon, Dae-Kyu as the 9th director.
2004.06.28 MOU with Institute of Matsuyama University, Japan.
2002.04.26 MOU with Asian Pacific Institute, Liaoning, China.
2002.03 Inauguration of Prof. Ko, Byung Chul as the 8th director.
2000.10.19 MOU with EdFuture Korea.
2000.10 Increase information exchange and cooperation with Ed Future Korea Corporation,
and sign the <Education/Research Agreement> for mutual development.
2000.09.29 MOU with Sysgen Company.
2000.09 Memorandum of Understanding with Ciszen Group
to increase North-South exchange and make provisions for unification.
2000.05.18 MOU with Hanaro Telecom.
2000.05 Memorandum of Understanding with the Hanaro Communication Corporation
Cyber courses on North Korean Studies established.
2000.05 National Research Foundation of Korea selects 'Asian Perspective' as the best
international academic journal of social sciences in South Korea for four consecutive years since 1996.
2000.04.25 MOU with Northeast Studies Institute, Yanbian University, China.
2000.03 Inauguration of Prof. Suh, Dae Sook as the 7th director.

1990

1990 history
1999.11.30 MOU with Korean Studies Institute, Fudan University, China.
1999.05.07 MOU with Hankyoreh Newspaper.
1999.05 Memorandam of Understanding with the Hankyoreh Newspaper.
1999.03 Inauguration of Prof. Yoon, Dae-kyu as the 4th assitant director.
1999.01.27 MOU with Asian Studies Institute, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
1998.03 IFES made liaison of the University of North Korean Studies.
1997.12 Ministry of Education selects 'Asian Perspective' as the best national academic journal of social sciences
for two consecutive years since 1996.
1997.10 Establishment of IFES web page. (http://www.iworld.net/ifes)
1997.07.24 MOU with Hyundai Research Institute.
1997.07 <Research/ Academic exchange/Referance Agreement>concluded with Hyundai Research Institute.
1997.02.12 MOU with The Center for East Asian Studies, University of Montreal, Canada.
1996.12 National Research Foundation of Korea selects 'Asian Perspective' as
the best international academic journal of social sciences in South Korea
1996.11.18 MOU with Monash Asia Institute, Monash University, Australia.
1995.12.01 MOU with Institute of East Asian Studies, Thammasat University, Thailand.
1996.05.23 MOU with Institute of East Asian Studies, American University, USA.
1995.10 Co-publishing of 'Asian Perspective' with the Portland State University.
1995.03.01 Inauguration of Prof. Kwak, Tae Hwan as the 6th director.
1994.07.19 MOU with Institute for Northeast Studies, Northeast Normal University, China.
1993.12 IFES selected as the institution for exceptional military duties.
1993.12.01 MOU with Institute for Northeast International Politics, Yanbian University, China.
1992.06.22 MOU with Center for Vietnamese & Southeast Asian Studies, University of Hochiminh City, Vietnam.
1991.03 Inauguration of Prof. Lee, Man Woo as the 5th director.

1980

1980 history
1989.10 Opening of the Dmytryshin Library of Slavic Studies
1988.07 Inauguration of Prof. Cho, Young Whan as the 4th director.
1989.03.10 MOU with Institute of Oriental Studies, USSR Academy of Science, Russia.
1988.03 Inauguration of Prof. Yeom, Hong Chul as the 3rd director.
1986.08 Reorganization of IFES to expand and include specialized labs and offices for following
purposes: policies and strategy, North Korea, China and Russia, America, Japan, Southeast Asia,
economies of communist countries, the Third World, labs for visiting professors, administrative office,
maintenance office, reference library, editorial room, and the office of international exchange.
1986.07 Dedication ceremony to celebrate completion of the new building.
1986.03 Inauguration of Prof. Yeom, Hong Chul as the 3rd assistant director.
1985.02 Begin construction of the new research building on its current location of Samchung-Dong, Chongro-Gu.
1985.01 First publication of 'Korea and World Politics'
Registered on Ministry of Culture on September 10, 1988 (Register No. Ba-1420)
1983.03 Reorganization of IFES to expand and include specialized labs and offices for the following
purposes: policies and strategy, North Korea, China and Russia, America, Japan, economies of communist
countries, the Third World, labs for visiting professors, administrative office, and a reference library.
Founding of the Advisory Committee and the Steering Committee.
1980.03 Inauguration of Prof. Chung, Tae Dong as the 2nd assistant director.

1970

1970 history
1979.04 IFES moved to Samchung-Dong, Chongro-Gu, Seoul.
1978.09 Reorganization of IFES to expand and include specialized labs for the following
research: North Korea, Communist China, Japan, the Third World, economies of communist countries, and
a reference library.
1977.09 Inauguration of Prof. Kim, Joo Bong as the 1st assistant director.
1976.06 First publication of 'Asian Perspective'
Registered on Ministry of Culture (Register No. Ba-628)
First issue published in Spring of 1977.
1974.01 IFES moved to Baiknam Building located Choong-Gu, Euilgiro, Seoul.
1973.05 Ministry of Education grants authorization to handle rebellious publication.
1973.03 Change of facility title from the Tonghan Institute of Kyungnam University to
the Institute for Far Eastern Studies(IFES) of Kyungnam University (located in Seoul).
Inauguration of Dr. Park, Jae Kyu as the 2nd director.
1972.09 Establishment of the Tonghan Institute of Kyungnam University in Masan.
Inauguration of Dr. Kim, Ki Suk as the 1st director.