A Lasting Partnership

Department of Public Administration and Policy Helps Korean Visitor Program Find a New Home, Continuing a 25-year Partnership with the Government of South Korea

Quality graduate programs always seek to attract international applicants. Global perspectives enrich the classroom experience across sector and field, and the free flow of ideas finds its perfect expression in a diverse student body. However, few institutions of higher education can boast an international partnership as long-lasting and impactful as that between the UGA Department of Public Administration and Policy (PADP) and the government of South Korea.

This 25-year relationship has yielded hugely successful academic programs, study-abroad, visiting scholars, and research opportunities, and specialized trainings for government officials in both nations, culminating with a new home for the UGA Korean Visitor Program when the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG) sunset its International Center in 2021. It currently hosts 20 long-term visiting scholars, mostly senior government officials. These scholars participate in professional development sessions, conduct research, meet with faculty, and complete job-shadowing opportunities and internships. PADP provides office space, equipment, and library access.

“I chose UGA because it was a leading university, with an innovative and progressive academic community and a well-known organization of outreach services. Significantly, the School of Public and International Affairs is very popular in Korea and has a great reputation.”

– Dr. Jeongkwon Cho, former director of the National Assembly Library in Korea


The history of this alliance began in the CVIOG International Center for Democratic Governance. In 1998, government officials in the Korean city of Busan reached out to CVIOG, asking to be hosted for one to two years.

“Typically, people would search on the internet and find universities that had good public administration programs,” said Rusty Brooks, who, as the then-director of CVIOG’s International Center, welcomed the delegation. Others followed, and soon Korean government officials outnumbered other international guests.

One such decorated public servant, Indong Cho, now the vice mayor of Seoul,  proved to be a pivotal figure in this growing partnership. Cho, who earned his Masters of Public Administration (MPA) from UGA in 1996, returned in 2004 as a visiting researcher at the International Center, and came back a third time in 2012.

“No Korean official had ever visited the same U.S. university twice,” said Brooks, who has taught PADP classes and mentored its students. “He had a very strong affection for the university, the MPA program, and for CVIOG. He saw CVIOG as something he would one day like to see happen in Korea.”

This affection led Cho to approach Brooks on the possibility of a formal visiting scholar program between the Korean government and UGA.

“From there, everything exploded,” Brooks recalled. “He was very influential in Seoul, so many of our early visitors were very high officials, at the director-general level. He put the word out all over Korea and made introductions at the ministry level. We got interviews with the Governor’s Association of Korea and the Korean Association for Public Administration (KAPA).”

With Cho’s help, the Korean visitors grew in both number and stature.

“I can easily say that the most significant relationships were in Korea, because of the level of people we were hosting and the professionalism and scholarship they exhibited during their visits,” said Brooks. “They then took that back and put it into policy and practice in Korea.”

Recent visiting scholar Dr. Jeongkwon Cho, former director of the National Assembly Library in Korea, is one such notable participant.

“I chose UGA because it was a leading university, with an innovative and progressive academic community and a well-known organization of outreach services,” Cho said. “Significantly, the School of Public and International Affairs is very popular in Korea and has a great reputation.”

2020 UGA Korean Visitor Program Presentation at PSO Leadership Academy

Chon-hong Kim, vice superintendent of the Jeollanamdo Office of Education, visited UGA to advance his understanding of education policy.

“I have conducted research on Korea’s mid- and long-term education policy agenda,” said Kim. “I compared the [U.S.] education system with that of Korea, to find out what needs to be considered for Korea’s education policy agenda as it faces rapid technological progress and demographic change. . . I was deeply impressed by the role of state universities with land grants. This gave me insights for the education administrators of Korea.”

Meanwhile, the International Center arranged its own delegation, sending Georgians, including the Athens city manager and director of economic development, to visit Korea. They were hosted by major Korean officials and came to appreciate UGA’s strong alliance with this key U.S. partner nation in the Far East.


Beginning in 2009, the Department of Public Administration and Policy sent its own group of ambassadors overseas, with the introduction of a for-credit study abroad opportunity for MPA and PhD students. Each May, Case Study in Seoul participants spend a week as guests of the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the University of Seoul.

The course’s goal is to increase students’ understanding of city management and solutions to metropolitan challenges. Before heading abroad, they complete readings and take part in discussions covering several key areas of city administration, including built environment, economic development, human rights, and human services.

“This week of intensive learning about Seoul’s city operations, as a global city leading in technology and innovation, is a fantastic opportunity for students to think about public administration in comparative contexts and to learn from our friends in Korea,” said MPA Program Director Eric Zeemering. “Students will come back to the United States with examples to inform their own work in local government, encouraged to further embrace technology to provide services and engage with the public.”

Once in Seoul, students experience lectures from city officials and scholars as well as field trips to public offices to see policymaking and public management in action. In addition to educational opportunities, students enjoy tourist attractions, cultural sites, markets, and Korean cuisine.

2017 participant Sachi Delacruz (MPA, ’17) remembers her experience fondly. “The study abroad trip to Seoul really gave me a chance to interact with policy on an international level and consider a different, but similar, set of local government concerns,” she said. “The same problems of transportation, infrastructure, public services, and public health apply there just as they do here.”

Zeemering sees another benefit: that of appreciating common purposes in a divided world.

“In this era of crisis and global tension, having the opportunity to visit another democratic nation, see the professionalism of their civil servants, and engage in dialogue about our shared commitment to public service values affirms for the students that they are part of a civic mission that is broader than any one country.”


By 2015, CVIOG’s Korean programming had supported the development of a generation of Korean officials, and the Korean Ministry of Personnel Management (MPM) was ready for the next step. With Cho as an ally and facilitator, Brooks and PADP Department Head Bradley Wright began designing specialized degree programs and opportunities for Korean civil servants.

The first such opportunity was the MPM program, launched in 2016. This two-year MPA program for Korean officials, arranged in partnership with the MPM, involves three semesters of MPA coursework and a fourth semester of CVIOG-directed readings, practicums, and applied research projects. Those students who successfully complete the standard degree requirements are awarded a Master in Public Administration degree from UGA.

“The International Center was excited to be able to leverage our relationships in South Korea with our 300 plus alumni of South Korean government officials to build new pipelines for MPA applicants,” said Brooks at the time.

Mid-career Korean civil servants, said Zeemering, are uniquely positioned to add value to the MPA classroom.

“Those who have worked in public service for a time and then return to campus to complete their MPA bring with them experiences and insights that younger students have not yet had the opportunity to experience,” he explained. “They enrich and enliven the classroom: they can quickly offer examples and share experiences that match the concepts we are studying. When we talk about an ethics dilemma or a management crisis, they’ve seen the content of those problems in their home organizations.”

When longtime MPM official Yoo Sung Ko looked to increase fairness and transparency in the Korean public personnel system, he immediately looked to UGA.

“I realized that Korea needs a more elaborate institutionalized mechanism to improve working conditions, and a fair system to evaluate its performance,” he said. “Civil servants should play a significant role in making effective policies to strengthen fairness and open opportunities. With a view to finding solutions to these problems, I decided to apply to the MPA program at the University of Georgia, to learn theories and [study] the advanced policies of the United States.”

While here, Ko worked on a research project for the city of Marietta, performing research to inform revisions of local alcohol ordinances.

“[When I graduate,] I would like to bring many insightful cases and policies back to the human resource programs of Korea,” he said. “By doing so, I want to enhance the integrity of the public sector and the effectiveness of the Korean government.”

2021 1 + 1 Student Group Project Final Presentations

Cross-country participation via the MPM arrangement, as with the study abroad opportunity, also reinforces the commonality of public problems. Zeemering, who teaches the introductory course Public Administration and Democracy, recounted seeing these epiphanies occur live in the classroom.

“Just recently, we shared final presentations, and some of our MPM students delivered insights from their home agency,” he said. “Being able to learn not only from mid-career public servants in the United States, but also from their Korean colleagues gives these students a more global view, and illustrates that the management challenges we discuss in the classroom are universal. Whether you are managing at a high level in Korea government or the American government, you will face some of the same analytical and managerial dilemmas. That is a great bond for the students to be able to see.”

SNU 1+1

In response to South Korean interest, the Department of Public Administration and Policy established a new degree program in 2017, called SNU 1+1. Under this arrangement, students at the Seoul National University (SNU) Graduate School of Public Administration, mostly mid- to senior-level South Korean government officials, may earn degrees from both programs/institutions in two years: one at SNU and another at UGA. Meanwhile, domestic PADP graduate students have the option to spend a year at SNU.

“Not only does this program prepare students to serve in government in a globalized world, but it also helps increase the international visibility of the University of Georgia and SPIA by promoting the exchange of information, personnel, students and faculty in the fields of public administration and public policy,” said Wright.

The dual-degree program helps provide students with a stronger understanding of increasingly global public policy and management issues by exposing them to international research, practices, and culture. Graduates develop unique qualifications for jobs in international organizations, government agencies, and nongovernmental market sectors.

2019 SNU 1+1 program promotion at Korean Education Center

“Seoul National University is the most prestigious university in the Republic of Korea,” said Zeemering. “Meanwhile, the University of Georgia is world-renowned for its research and teaching in public management, as well as in public budgeting and finance. I believe students come to learn from our faculty because they know this is one of the best places to gain insight on how to manage government agencies during these very challenging times.”

Meanwhile, UGA’s legacy of cooperation with Korea complements the MPA program’s theme of ongoing alumni mentorship.

“Having alumni support current students is a fundamental part of public affairs education,” Zeemering continued. “We are a strong MPA program because our graduates are in leadership positions in organizations in the United States and around the globe. Just as domestic students know that they will benefit from those alumni connections and relationships, our students from Korea know that they are coming into a network dedicated to public service and professionalism.”


In summer 2021, pandemic-related budget pressures forced the Carl Vinson Institute of Government to close its International Center. Much of the Center’s budget revenue came from hosting short-term delegations for trainings and immersion experiences, and these opportunities were short-circuited by COVID.

“At that time, we still had a significant number of [long-term] visitors,” Brooks reflected. “My concern was what was going to happen to them, and to the relationship between the university and South Korea.”

Brooks went to PADP Department Head Bradley Wright and SPIA Dean Matthew Auer, who immediately agreed on the value of the Korean programs and went to work designing a solution. Via a memorandum of understanding, the Department of Public Administration and Policy absorbed much of the Korean programming of the International Center, retaining long-time CVIOG staffer Taesik Yun (SPIA PhD, ’12) as Director for Korean Programs. Starting in Fall 2022, the Korean Program will be rebranded as the Global Leadership and Development Program and become affiliated with Center for the Study of Global Issues (GLOBIS).  GLOBIS already provides valuable support for the Department of Public Administration and Policy’s Case Study in Seoul study abroad program.

Yun supports trainings and opportunities for Korean visitors, helps facilitate the MPM and 1+1 program, and works to promote the 1+1 program to traditional MPA students who may benefit from a year at SNU. He also manages visa sponsorships and helps visitors acclimate to Athens by helping with accommodations and transportation.

Yun said his recruitment work is supported by the legacy of cooperation between UGA and Korea, and by the presence of Korean staff such as himself.

“Korean students are attracted to the University of Georgia by our top-ranked program and the chance for practical experience, through CVIOG and the program,” he said.

The Future of PADP and Korean Programming

With hundreds of visiting scholars, 20 MPM graduates and current students, 15 SNU 1+1 participants, and 65 study abroad participants, the historical partnership between the UGA Department of Public Administration and Policy, CVIOG, and South Korea has created a significant impact in the study and practice of international public administration. It serves as a template for other public affairs schools looking to create global alliances.

Brooks sees even greater opportunities ahead for UGA/Korean partnerships, as the University’s vast Korean network contributes to economic development in the state. Over 50 Korean companies now operate in Georgia, including Kia and SK Battery, serving as major employers and contributors to the local tax base.

“I often felt that the university, the city, and the state didn’t understand the reach of the International Center in Korea,” he said. “I don’t think anyone fully appreciated the contacts, the networks, the number and level of people we hosted and partnered with. I think that was an underutilized advantage.”

UGA is likely better-known in Korea than any other university, he continued.

“Other nations were attracted to the prestige of Harvard, but in South Korea, they stopped and studied the market and analyzed the cost/benefits, and saw that UGA was a top-ranked public administration program,” he said. “It was also very affordable. It provided a high quality of life and was a great place to live.”


2019 UGA Gameday