Young Hoon Kang
One of USC’s most distinguished Korean alumni, Yong Hoon Kang has had an illustrious career as a military, academic, diplomatic and political leader in South Korea, capped by his two-year tenure as Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea during 1988-90. His early career as an officer in the South Korean Military culminated with appointments as Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Korean Ministry of National Defense (1954) and as Superintendent of the Korean Military Academy (1960). He was forced to leave the military and was imprisoned for 6 months for opposing the May 1961 military coup. After being freed, he chose to go to the U.S. for further studies.
Graduating in 1972 with a doctoral degree from USC’s School of International Relations (part of what is now the USC Dornsife College), Dr. Kang went on to serve as director of the Korean Affairs Research Institute in Washington, D.C.; dean of the Graduate School of Foreign Studies at Hankuk University; and chancellor of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He served as South Korea’s Ambassador to Great Britain and Ireland from 1981 to 1984 and to the Vatican from 1985 to 1988.
Kang became a member of the National Assembly in 1988 and was appointed prime minister in December of the same year. During his two-year term, he oversaw South Korea’s remarkable transformation from authoritarian military rule to a modern democratic state. Further, he took part in historic meetings with his North Korean counterpart, Yon Hyong-muk—the highest-level contact between the two governments since 1945. The exchange of visits by the two prime ministers was aimed at reducing tension on the peninsula and an eventual reunification.
Kang subsequently became the president of the Republic of Korea National Red Cross. In that role he was responsible for maintaining contact with and providing humanitarian aid to North Korea. Later, he served as chairman of the Sejong Foundation, and as chairman of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Korea Committee.
In 1995, he was awarded an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II.
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