South Korea confers with Bowdoin community
February 3, 2023
In an event sponsored by the Korean Economics Institute (KEI), a delegation of government officials visited the College on Thursday for a conversation with the Korean Students Association (KSA) with a special focus on Maine’s fisheries.
Maine has had a long history of economic ties with South Korea, particularly in the lobster and fishing businesses. South Korea was one of the first trading partners with the Maine International Trade Center when it was established.
“Since then there [has been] an astounding amount of trade and foreign direct investment between Maine and Korea. South Korea is actually Maine’s seventh-largest trading partner,” Executive Director of the World Affairs Council of Maine Allison Hodgkins said.
This visit is part of the KEI’s Future of Korea program which aims to strengthen U.S.-Korea relations. The delegation is composed of representatives from the KEI as well as officials from the U.S. State Department and the South Korean Embassy. The program works with various World Affairs Councils around the U.S.. Portland, Maine is one of the group’s seven destinations in 2022 and 2023.
“It’s also central to our mission as the World Affairs Council of Maine to give Mainers an opportunity to understand the importance of this relationship and its role in U.S. national security as well as trade and economic prosperity,” Hodgkins said.
As part of its tour, the delegation visited Maine businesses and held a forum with local fisheries to learn more about the Maine fishing industry. On Wednesday night, the delegation presented on the history of the economic and diplomatic relations of Maine and South Korea in a panel moderated by former Bowdoin professor and KEI contributor Brad Babson.
The delegation has a vested interest in the fishing and lobster industry particularly because the representative from the South Korean Embassy, Sangkil Lee, serves as the Counselor for Oceans and Fisheries. Much of the visit was tailored by the World Affairs Council to show a variety of perspectives in the Maine fishing industry.
During its visit to Bowdoin, the delegation spoke with Holly Parker, director of the Schiller Coastal Studies Center, who discussed the rapidly changing Maine fishing and lobster industries and how the Schiller Coastal Studies works with local communities to combat environmental concerns.
“How can science serve these communities, economies and environments on the coast of Maine?” Parker said.
Parker anticipated that some of the conversation would be geared toward the prominence of fisheries within the Maine fishing industry and the environmental and health effects of that model in particular. The addition of this presentation hopes to add some scientific backing to the environmental discussion the delegation has had earlier in the visit.
In addition to this conversation, the delegation had a luncheon with the KSA to discuss the path towards a career in foreign service, specifically in relations with South Korea. Also discussed were opportunities to study abroad in South Korea.
“It was interesting to see the progress that they’ve made but also what they’ve done and how they built the experiences and opportunities they did to get to the place they are right now,” Paulina Lee ’26 said. “It was fun hearing about it because it’s a topic I’m interested in.”
While the students learned from the delegation, the delegation also hoped to gain insight from the students about their perspectives on political and economic issues in South Korea.
“There’s a lot going on now both in the economic relationship and issues with North Korea, which are getting a lot of attention from everybody,” Babson said. “They’re interested in what the students’ perspectives are and what their hopes are.”
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