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UC Merced forms partnership with South Korean university

"Annyong ha shimnikka." That’s hello in Korean -- and a term that may soon be heard regularly on the UC Merced campus.

UC Merced’s School of Engineering signed an agreement of cooperation Tuesday with the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at South Korea's Chungbuk University.

The agreement allows for exchange of faculty and students; joint research; and exchange of academic materials and information with Chugbuk’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

"This is the beginning of a whole new frontier," said UC Merced Chancellor Sung-Mo "Steve" Kang.

Chancellor Kang was born and raised in South Korea. He moved to America after winning a scholarship for college, becoming the first member of his family to receive a higher education. Kang has three degrees -- bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate — in electrical engineering.

"Internationalization of education is becoming more important in this globalized world," Kang said. "Our students will get to know what is happening in other parts of the world."

Chungbuk University is located 80 miles southeast of Seoul in central South Korea. There are over 24,000 students and 714 faculty members. More than 10 percent of the school’s students are engineering majors.

About 27 percent of all bachelor’s degrees earned in South Korea in 2004 were for engineering, according to a 2008 National Science Foundation report. In the U.S., engineering majors represent just under 5 percent of undergraduate students.

Chungbuk has five other sister schools in the United States. UC Merced has five other sister schools in South Korea. Jeff Wright, dean of Merced’s engineering school, said the agreement is not only good for professors and students, but also for the entire college.

“It shows that we are being well received by top research universities around the world, despite our newness,” he said.

It seems the leadership at both schools is already thinking alike. After the deans from both of the universities signed the agreement, they exchanged small gifts.

Purely by coincidence, everyone gave clocks.