Ahn Ho-young, South Korea’s ambassador to the United States, took a detour from a scheduled meeting with Governor Scott Walker to visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
At a reception attended by students, alumni, faculty and staff, Ahn discussed the Korean influence in the United States, the strong relationship between South Korea and UW-Madison, and international education.
Ahn, who has been serving as the ambassador since 2013, knows the value of international education firsthand. He received his bachelor’s in political science from Seoul National University and master’s from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. While his education and career have afforded numerous opportunities to explore the U.S., this was the ambassador’s first time visiting the nation’s dairy state.
“This is my first trip to Wisconsin,” Ahn said. “One place in Madison, Wisconsin, I couldn’t skip was the University of Wisconsin-Madison.”
The university shares several ties to South Korea.
During the gathering, Chemistry Professor and South Korean Alumnus Hyuk Yu spoke about the history of the Wisconsin Alumni Association: Korea Chapter and the current Korean alumni contributions not only in Korean society, but also on campus. He specifically noted that $1 million of the $8 million Alumni Park project was donated by an anonymous Korean UW-Madison alum. Ahn observed that UW-Madison students are “doing very well in very different settings in Korean society” and said it’s a pity that he didn’t have the opportunity to speak to more students during his short visit.
Ahn also acknowledged the importance of Korean students studying in the United States and the popularity of study abroad programs in South Korea.
“The largest number of foreign students studying in the United States comes from China,” said Ahn. “Second largest comes from India and third largest from Korea.”
Interest in Korea is high on campus. Laurie Dennis, assistant director of the Center for East Asian Studies, said that there are a large number of students studying the Korean language at UW-Madison. She noted that one of the largest student organization on campus is associated with k-pop.
Ahn concluded his visit by sharing some of his personal story and experiences with Korean food, Korean culture and how he has seen Korean influence taking shape in the United States.