Harvard Renegotiates South Korean Foundation Endowment

University's shifting strategy targets more flexible funding

Harvard renegotiated terms to an agreement with a South Korean foundation yesterday that will loosen restrictions on a $13 million endowment established in 1975 for Korean studies.

The signed deal with the Sanhak Foundation—which was founded by the Korean International Traders Association to promote the nation’s economic development—marks Harvard’s first success in its shifting strategy to secure more flexible sources of funding, said Vice Provost for International Affairs Jorge I. Dominguez.

Under the original terms of the agreement, what Dominguez described as a “series of locking clauses” stipulated that the funds could only be used to endow a senior faculty member’s position in Korean studies at Harvard.

And because there is no endowed chair at present in this field, Harvard has been unable to use the payout from this endowment for a number of years. Endowing a full professorship at the University requires about $4 million.

The funds can now be used to support tenure-track faculty, visiting scholars in the department, and students studying the economy and society of modern Korea.


“For a number of reasons, the endowment got restricted in ways not anticipated when it was signed,” Dominguez said. “What is a fairly huge amount can now be deployed for other uses.”

In recent months, University administrators have taken steps to ensure that past gifts—which, like the Sanhak Foundation endowment, often come with strings attached—are flexible enough to accommodate changing needs over time.

Harvard officials are currently reevaluating whether similarly restrictive agreements signed in the past can be renegotiated to match available resources with current needs.

“We now have a more systematic process, since there ought to be a mechanism to scrutinize endowments,” Dominguez said of the Gift Policy Committee, which is chaired by University Provost Steven E. Hyman and has now absorbed these responsibilities.

These efforts had been underway before the financial crisis heightened the need to allocate current use of funds more efficiently, Dominguez said.

The deal with the Sanhak Foundation follows an agreement Harvard signed with the government of Chile last week that will provide enough financial support to nearly double the number of Chilean students across the University’s graduate schools to a total of 50 students.

—Staff writer Athena Y. Jiang can be reached at

—Staff writer June Q. Wu can be reached at