NUS East Asian Institute establishes Korea Centre in Singapore

Centre is first knowledge hub in Southeast Asia to focus on Korea’s development experience

The East Asian Institute (EAI) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has established the Korea Centre to spearhead research on governance, peace and development in the Korean Peninsula. The first of its kind in Southeast Asia, the new Centre seeks to contribute to understanding and interaction between the two Koreas (North and South Korea) and ASEAN countries.

Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, who officiated the launch, said, “The Korean Peninsula remains fascinating, complex, and well worth the analysis and academic work that the Korea Centre will embark on. 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.”

Headed by Dr Lam Peng Er, Head of the Korea Centre and Principal Research Fellow at EAI, the Centre is welcomed by the embassies to Singapore of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with support from the Korea Foundation. Its vision is to become a leading knowledge hub in the Asia Pacific outside of the Korean Peninsula, focusing on contemporary Korean politics, economy, society and international relations, as well as North-South interaction in the Korean Peninsula.

EAI Chairman Dr Teh Kok Peng said, “The establishment of the Korea Centre is an important milestone for EAI. A key reason for the EAI Management Board to support the Centre is the importance of peace and development in the Korean Peninsula for Singapore and Asia more broadly.”

Dr Lee Geun, President of the Korea Foundation added, “The Korea Centre will be the first research institute for Korea-related studies to be established in Southeast Asia in cooperation with the Korea Foundation. Once opened, the Korea Centre will be an indispensable platform in the Asia Pacific region where Korea and ASEAN work together to better understand not only Korea but also one another.”

The Centre will have an advisory board comprising Mr Bilahari Kausikan, Chairman of the Middle East Institute at NUS; Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies; and Dr Lee Suk, Director of North Korea Studies at the Korea Development Institute. It will tap on EAI’s existing network of renowned researchers with global expertise on the region, as well as facilitate research exchanges through an ASEAN-Korean Peninsula network. It also plans to host conferences and seminars, publish a quarterly bulletin and interact with counterparts from the two Koreas.

Dr Lam noted, “The Korea Centre will develop its own Southeast Asian perspectives to better understand the important Korean Peninsula for peace, development and friendship based on scholarly research, collaboration and fieldwork.”

In October 2020, with a generous grant from the Korea Foundation, EAI had organised an international conference on the triangular relations between Seoul, ASEAN and Pyongyang. Building upon this, the Centre will be organising an inaugural international conference on “Assessing Seoul's New Southern Policy Plus (NSPP): Perspectives from ASEAN, Korea and India” on 3 December.

Specifically, the conference will examine Seoul’s NSPP as a grand strategy to diversify its foreign policy by engaging Southeast Asia and India for mutual benefits. Experts will discuss on various topics for instance concerning the NSPP with regards to ASEAN Centrality and India’s Act East Policy, and its impact amid the superpower contestation between the US and China.