From Seoul to Southwest Virginia: An Interview with Dr Hye Seung Kim

by Krisha Chachra

Dr. Hye-Seung Kim is currently a visiting Faculty Fellow at VTIPG involved in conducting comparative research on U.S. And Korean affordable housing policy. She joined the Institute faculty for one year in November, 2009. VTIPG affiliated PhD student Krisha Chachra recently sat down with Dr. Kim to discuss how she came to VTIPG as well as her current research.


February 3, 2010

How does the landscape for housing non-profits compare in the United States to South Korea? Dr. Hye Seung Kim is hoping to find out. The newest visiting scholar to VTIPG specializes in housing affordability and community based nonprofits organizations in the housing sector in her home country, but is interested in conducting further research of these topics in the United States.

“I am interested in reviewing housing policies in the United States to see how they compare with policies in South Korea,” she said.

Dr. Kim, who received her PhD in Housing Studies from Kyunghee University in Seoul, Korea, has been studying housing policy for 20 years. She was so motivated to do a comparison study that she turned to the Internet to search for scholars in the United States who specialized in housing non-profits. That is where she found Dr. Max Stephenson, SPIA’s own faculty member in Urban Affairs and Planning and Director of the Institute for Policy and Governance.

Dr. Kim said that after learning about Dr. Stephenson’s work, she was really impressed with his research and the accomplishments of the Institute. She knew she wanted to apply for a grant to come work on a research project at Virginia Tech. Employed as a research fellow at Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements (KRIHS) since 2003, Dr. Kim was also familiar with Virginia Tech because a colleague of hers at KRIHS had worked with Dr. Ted Koebel, Chair of Urban Affairs and Planning in SPIA a few years ago.

“KRIHS has good experiences with funding research fellows and sending them to Virginia Tech,” Dr. Kim said. “I am honored to be the second fellow to have an opportunity to study here.”

Dr. Kim will team up with Dr. Stephenson and Dr. Sang O. Choi, professor at the Center for Public Administration and Policy in SPIA, to work on a project that will explore low-income housing delivery systems and the roles of nonprofit organization in the United States. The project will begin in February and is funded for three months by KRIHS. The researchers will pay attention to partnerships, collaborative governance, and intersectoral networks for delivery of housing. Through their findings, Dr. Kim hopes that the Korean government will address shortcomings in her country’s current housing policies and make housing delivery systems more effective.

The team hopes to look at two or three states–including Virginia–as low-income housing policy case studies to review. Dr. Kim believes the findings will have implications for the Korean government, local government and nonprofit organizations in her home country.

Right now, however, Dr. Kim is getting to know her host town of Blacksburg. This is her third visit to the United States, but her first time to Southwest Virginia. She is looking forward to the weather warming up so she can go to the Cascades and horseback riding. Although she was impressed that there was a Korean restaurant nearby in Pembroke, Dr. Kim says the thing she misses most from home is the food. She has met several people already and hopes to make new friends when she can get out and enjoy the town.

“I feel safe and healthy in Blacksburg. I enjoy the clean air and the quietness,” she says. “The only thing that concerns me is that I drive a Toyota and my car might have to go in for the recall.”

Dr. Kim plans to stay at Virginia Tech until November 2010 to conduct her research and study with the VTIPG affiliated faculty.