Charles Woolfson was one of eight researchers from Linköping University who took part in a Swedish Universities internationalisation mission to South Korea along with representatives of university management, the international department and student recruitment office. The delegation participated in a two day Korea-Sweden Excellence Seminar at Hanyang University in Seoul, from 20-22 April 2015.
The collaboration between the Swedish Academic Collaboration Forum (SACF) and the National Research Foundation of South Korea also included the universities of Lund, Uppsala and Stockholm plus Chalmers and the Royal Institute of Technology. This is the first collaborative venture of its kind between so many Swedish universities.
Themes of interest in South Korea were creative economic growth, sustainable welfare, functional materials, health challenges with an expanding aging population and low-carbon dioxide societies.
Charles Woolfson was co-organiser of the stream within the area of ‘Sustainable Welfare for Quality of Life’. “South Korea has developed its economy rapidly during recent decades but social welfare issues have lagged behind. Poverty is high, especially among the elderly. Suicide rates are among the highest in the world, after Lithuania, and it is mostly the elderly who commit suicide. The labour market is very uncertain, with flexible terms of employment and temporary contracts; when we were in South Korea there were, for example, workers striking for more stable conditions,” says Charles.
During the visit Charles found time to develop strong contacts with fellow South Korean researchers. In addition to the Excellence Seminar, he delivered a seminar paper to the Korea International Migration Studies Association (KIMSA), Seoul, 20 April 2015, and a further seminar in the 2015 International Scholar Lecture Series at the Center for German and European Studies (ZeDES), at Chung-Ang University, Seoul on 23 April 2015.
Over the next twelve months, three follow-on international workshops will be held in South Korea and in Sweden on issues relating to social welfare and labour market issues.
“We will be collaborating on welfare issues and employment conditions, and comparing South Korea with the Baltic countries, which have had a broadly similar development with rapid economic growth but inadequate social protection and an uncertain labour market. Now that the economies in these countries have stabilized, issues of social justice have moved up the agenda; we hope that our research collaboration can contribute to development in the area.”