NUS opens new research centre focusing on Korean peninsula

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan (second from left) at the launch of NUS' new Korea Centre. PHOTO: NUS

SINGAPORE - Singapore's expertise on both North and South Korea is getting a boost with the creation of a new research centre.

The National University of Singapore's (NUS) East Asian Institute established the Korea Centre on Nov 29 to study governance, diplomacy and development in the peninsula.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan launched the centre, which is housed in the East Asian Institute in NUS' campus in Bukit Timah.

He said the Korean peninsula remains fascinating, complex and well worth analysis and academic work.

"We do need a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the intricacies and implications of developments in the peninsula, and its wider impact on us and the rest of the world," added Dr Balakrishnan.

The centre will be helmed by Head of the Korea Centre and principal research fellow at the East Asia Institute, Dr Lam Peng Er.

He told The Straits Times in an interview the Korea Centre will allow the institute to broaden and deepen its understanding of East Asia.

He said: "You cannot understand East Asia, China or Japan without understanding Korea as they all have long historical ties to each other which affect their modern day relations."

Dr Lam added that while the East Asian Institute has traditionally had a good grasp of Chinese and Japanese affairs, the new centre will fill a lacuna in its understanding - Korea.

The move to establish the centre was also spurred in part by the 2018 Trump-Kim summit held between the leaders of the United States and North Korea in Singapore, Dr Lam added.

He told ST that the centre hopes to bring in talent to generate a uniquely South-east Asian perspective on the Korean peninsula, and serve both Singapore and Asean by creating reliable, in-depth knowledge.

He added: "Singapore should work to develop its own understanding of both North and South (Korea), leveraging its good relations with both countries, which may be able to give us access and knowledge not available to researchers from other countries who have less cordial relations."

The centre is the first of its kind in South-east Asia, and was welcomed by the embassies of both Koreas, said NUS.

The centre held an international conference titled Assessing Seoul's New Southern Policy Plus: Perspectives From Asean, Korea And India last Friday (Dec 3), and plans to host conferences and seminars as well as publish a quarterly bulletin.

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