A KU professor who has devoted nearly 30 years to supporting democratic standards in South Korea has been honored for his dedication.
A Kansas University distinguished professor is believed to be the first nondiplomat in the United States to receive a special diplomatic service medal from the South Korean government.
George Frederickson, professor of public administration and government at KU, said Tuesday that he accepted the Order of Diplomatic Service medal in Seoul for promoting friendly relations between the two countries. The medal is typically given to diplomats at the conclusion of their service in Korea.
``It's very, very exciting,'' Frederickson said.
Korean President Kim Dae-Jung, a former dissident with a turbulent political career that includes several attempts on his life, years of imprisonment and exile in Japan, signed the declaration in Frederickson's honor.
``It makes me thrilled, of course,'' said Frederickson, who had met Kim prior to the July 13 medal presentation.
Frederickson has visited Korea more than 30 times since 1970 to lecture, consult and develop scholarly programs. While a Fulbright Scholar in 1990, he taught at Dongguk University in Seoul. He's also brought Korean officials to workshops and seminars at KU.
As a graduate student in the 1960s, some of Frederickson's closest friends were Korean students.
He decided to finish his doctoral degree, save a bit of money and travel to Korea to learn about language, culture and politics. At the time, the Cold War raged.
``The tension between North Korea and South Korea was palpable,'' he said. ``It (South Korea) had a totalitarian government.''
Frederickson, working at Indiana University, launched a student exchange program with South Korea. He expanded these programs to include faculty, artists and sports teams after accepting a job as president of Eastern Washington University. Since joining the KU faculty in 1987, exchange programs have involved KU and Lawrence representatives.
South Korea's government has changed dramatically over these years, Frederickson said.
``It's a particularly exciting time now. They now have a third president in a row democratically elected. Democracy has taken hold. I don't think it will ever go back.''
Frederickson's commitment to Korea hasn't changed. He's working on a new grant program with the U.S. State Department to bring more Koreans to Kansas to study how government works.
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