As a young man, he ventured from his native South Korea across the globe to the New York metropolitan area, eventually studying at FDU’s Rutherford Campus.
As the president of Kyungnam University in Masan, South Korea, for the last two decades, he has led the development of partnerships and programs with institutions throughout the world.
And, as the minister of unification, he played a pivotal role in the historic North-South Korean Summit in 2000, which took a major step toward the reconciliation of the two estranged lands.
Park’s leadership in higher education and international relations has made him one of Korea’s most respected and influential individuals. In one lengthy profile, the Korea Times described him as an “iron hand in a velvet glove” because of his “gentle appearance” and “sturdy spirit.”
With his typical modesty, he is quick to deflect praise. “I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to be at the right place at the right time; and, luckily, I have been able to make a contribution at those times.”
Much has figured in this prominent man’s path, but luck hardly explains his remarkable string of achievements.
Coming to America
Born in Masan, which lies in South Kyongsang Province, Park lived in a remote fishing village, and he says education provided an “escape” to the city. By the time he entered Masan High School, he began to dream of going abroad. In 1963, he traveled to New York City and studied English at Columbia University’s language institute.
Park recalls the challenge of learning another language. “Pronunciation practice in particular was a wrestling match for my tongue — the clerks at the supermarket didn’t know if I was asking for soup or soap.”
Following a year in New York, Park enrolled at FDU. “I wanted to be close to New York, but in a cozier, more community-oriented place, something a bit more familiar and like home. Proximity, character and the people of Rutherford made ‘the Castle’ an ideal choice.”
|“Pronunciation practice in particular was a wrestling match for my tongue — the clerks at the supermarket didn’t know if I was asking for soup or soap.”
Park majored in international relations, and although he says he spent many late nights studying to keep up with his peers, he “enjoyed campus life immensely, and the hard work sure paid off.”
Park then received a scholarship to attend graduate school at the City College of New York (CCNY), where he began to develop a deep interest in North Korean studies, a passion he describes as his “lifetime assignment.” He later earned diplomas from the University of Exeter in England and The New School in New York and gained his PhD from Kyunghee University in South Korea.