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NC State to Establish New ‘Asia Campus’ and Research Laboratory in South Korea

Within five years, Raleigh, N.C., won’t be the only city with a North Carolina State University campus.

Recent agreements signed by NC State and representatives from South Korea’s Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) will add a large NC State presence to IFEZ’s Center for East-West Intellectual and Cultural Exchange, a South Korean hub of economic growth akin to North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park. IFEZ is a burgeoning area located near the country’s capital, Seoul.

According to the agreements, NC State will explore the opportunity for its own Asia campus in IFEZ, joining a handful of other universities. When fully operational, it is expected that NC State’s campus will be able to accommodate approximately 3,000 students, most of them undergraduates. Officials expect that, at each U.S. university IFEZ campus, about 40 percent of the students will hail from South Korea, with 25 to 30 percent coming from the United States and the remaining 25 to 30 percent coming from other countries, most likely Asian countries like China, India and Japan.

NC State undergraduates will have the opportunity to study at the NC State Asia campus for semesters or academic years as an international study experience. NC State faculty will also teach and do research at the Asia campus.

“Incheon is becoming the hub of education in Asia, and an Asia campus provides a base in Asia for NC State,” says Dr. Bailian Li, vice provost for international affairs at NC State. “Two billion people live within a three-and-a-half-hour flight from Incheon International Airport.”

NC State also signed an agreement to join the establishment of a joint research lab in IFEZ that will focus on training graduate students and faculty research with Korean universities, particularly in the fields of biotechnology and information technology. The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego and Stony Brook University have also agreed to establish the joint research lab in IFEZ.

NC State and the Salk Institute will focus on biotechnology and genomics, while Stony Brook will focus on information technology. A number of NC State faculty and students will be able to conduct research in South Korea while enjoying the benefits of an international experience.

The price tag for both the campus and the research lab is $10 million per year for the next five years. Funds are being provided by IFEZ and South Korea’s central government.

Campus land and facilities will be rent free, although NC State will pay for maintenance and utilities from tuition and fees collected. The Korean government will provide student residence halls and faculty housing.

Dr. Heeyhon Song, chairman of the Asia Development Institute, who helped cement the NC State-IFEZ agreements, says South Korea is using Research Triangle Park as a model for IFEZ. He adds that South Korea feels pressured by the up-and-coming economies in China and India, and is looking to develop its own niche as a world power in biotechnology, information technology and creative cultural industry. Agreements with U.S. universities like NC State, he says, are the precursors to attracting research and development, followed by business and industry.

This development resulted from an October 2007 trip to South Korea and Japan by a number of NC State administrators and faculty – including Provost Larry Nielsen, Vice Chancellor for Graduate Studies Terri Lomax and Li.

The trip also resulted in a unique agreement to conduct a dual Ph.D. program in genomics with Seoul National University, set to launch this fall.

The first global, dual Ph.D. program for NC State and Seoul National University will provide opportunities for students to obtain a dual Ph.D. degree from both universities in genomics. To receive both degrees, students must fulfill the degree requirements of both institutions. A joint workshop was held by faculty from both universities this January at NC State, and students are being admitted for the dual degree program this fall.

The trip also showed the strength of alumni relations in South Korea, as 31 of the informal 350-member South Korean alumni club attended a reception in Seoul. Among the attendees were the executive vice president of Samsung, a vice president of Huneed Technologies, and a director of the Defense Agency for Technology and Quality.

The NC State delegation also made a visit to Samsung Electronics and was hosted by Executive Vice President Changsik Choi and seven other NC State alumni.

NC State administrators also signed a number of academic agreements with other Korean universities, including two private universities that emphasize science, technology and engineering disciplines.

In Japan, NC State officials met with the steering committee of AC21, an academic consortium for the 21st century founded and led by Nagoya University, a research and technology transfer partner of NC State’s. AC21 has 20 university members, of which NC State is the only North American member.

This July, NC State will be the host of the biennial AC21 International Forum. About 300 participants from across the globe are expected to attend.