Fourteen high achievers from various professions in Korea will commence a yearlong study in Britain in September through the Chevening Scholarships granted by the United Kingdom government.
The scholarship, established in 1983, is a global program offered to candidates who have shown potential to be “future leaders, decision-makers and opinion formers” in diverse fields, such as academia, politics, business, media, religion and civil society.
The program is offered to some 700 students in more than 110 countries each year, mainly funded by the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office with partial contributions from universities, companies and foreign governments.
The 2015 Chevening Scholars pose with British Ambassador Charles Hay (center) at a reception marking their departure at the ambassador’s residence in Seoul on Thursday. Joel Lee/The Korea Herald
“It is a huge achievement to be selected as a Chevening Scholar, as you have been chosen on the basis of your potential to be a future leader,” British Ambassador Charles Hay told the recipients at the ambassador’s residence in Seoul on Friday.
“I know that all of you being Korean will work extremely hard. But I encourage you to not work hard every night, and experience the diverse and vibrant cultural life on offer in the U.K.”
Chevening has a worldwide network of over 44,000 alumni who have held different positions of influence, including former Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev, former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez, former Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka, Indian Cabinet Minister Nittish Mishra and Chinese Vice Minister for Tax Administration Xu Shandu.
More than 1,100 Korean Chevening Scholars have studied in the U.K. and joined the alumni, which regularly hosts knowledge forums, social nights, annual trips and education classes for lower-income children. The organization also associates with the Chinese Chevening Alumni as well as those from other Asian countries.
British Ambassador Charles Hay lets out a hearty laugh during a speech marking the departure of Chevening Scholars at a reception at the ambassador’s residence in Seoul on Thursday. Joel Lee / The Korea Herald
“Korea has the mission to upgrade its model of social and economic development through globalization. Britain, having deep knowledge and far networks from its past colonial expanse, would offer lessons to benchmark,” BKL Partner and Korean alumni president Park Jong-baek told The Korea Herald.
Park, who studied international business law at London School of Economics from 1999 to 2000, noted: “Korea’s social norms are either unquestioningly one-sided and trendy, or bifurcated along extreme ideological lines. There is no room to express opinions different from the mainstream view, and everyone is on a rat race toward the same finish line. This creates winners and losers.”
The strength of British education, according to Park, is that it respects students’ diverse talents and allows different paths of educational and vocational development. It is also attentive to the students’ needs, with teachers showing high degrees of dedication and professionalism.
To diversify this mentality that dominates Korea, Park hoped the scholars would do some cross-cultural introspection in the multicultural U.K. He also encouraged them to deepen the bilateral relations following their career enrichment.
(From left) BKL partner Park Jong-baek, IBK Chief Deputy General Manager Lee Dong-hoon, MOFA second secretary Kim Sung-jun and KT manager Ju Dae-wu. Joel Lee / The Korea Herald
Ministry of Foreign Affairs second secretary Kim Sung-jun, who will study social policy at LSE, said he wanted to learn from Britain’s wealth of historical and political experience in governing society.
“Britain has adopted different policies across a broad ideological spectrum since the end of WWII, from social democracy to laissez-faire economy,” the young diplomat said. “I also want to delve into its rich culture, which has posh, highbrow features on one hand, and queer, hipster trends on the other.”
While pointing out that Korea also offers high-quality scholarships to students from developing countries, Kim commented that benchmarking Chevening would serve as a useful public diplomacy tool for the Korean government.
A manager at KT, Ju Dae-wu, who studied new media at the University of London from 2008 to 2009, said he benefited from closely interacting with his professors, who were world-renowned scholars in their fields of expertise.
“The classes were without formalities and mannerism, and a one-hour lecture was followed by an hourlong discussion led by students,” Ju said. “The curriculum was intellectually engaging, with theory-focused lectures and qualitative research.”
IBK chief deputy general manager Lee Dong-hoon, who studied international banking and finance at the University of Birmingham from 1998 to 1999, said he learned the U.K.’s advanced financial techniques and the rule of law called “compliance.”
“Finance started from London and its financial market has been at the forefront of cutting-edge financial engineering, with diverse products and regulatory response capacities,” he said. “I studied there right after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, and thought that if we had adopted these measures earlier, the Korean economy could have weathered the crisis better.”
Korea’s Ministry of Strategy and Finance, Financial Supervisory Service, Bank of Korea, Diageo Korea, Korea Britain Society, HSBC and PCA Life Korea are the scholarship sponsors and partners.
By Joel Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)