East Rock Institute is the nation’s oldest nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to bridging cultures, innovating cross-cultural research, and inspiring the next generation of global leaders.
Founded in the 1950s to introduce democratic ideals to the Korean people, ERI later pushed for the introduction of Korean and Korean American studies to American and Korean American academic community. ERI also worked to narrow the inter-generational gap and tackle issues of Korean and Korean-American identity while increasing awareness of Korean culture in the United States.
In the new millennium, ERI broadened its scope to include comparative East Asian and Korean diasporic studies, increasing its international collaborations with leading cultural organizations, including the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of Ethnology in Japan.
Throughout our history, ERI has focused on the use of research for practical purposes, with a special emphasis on promoting the development of young people into the next generation of globally-oriented, culturally-competent authentic leaders. Staying true to our philosophy that one’s skill should not exceed one’s virtue, we seek to increase our cultural competency, self discipline, compassion, and creative cooperation in leadership with global vision.
From the outset, ERI has been inclusive taking into account concerns of all those who are related to Korea by birth, by marriage, by adoption and by choice. We believe that theory and practice are like two wings of a bird. Theory not based on facts or experiences is not reliable. Practice without theory will not be effective.
As we search, learn and serve together, we can have a positive impact on the lives of the future generation and on the deepening of cultural understanding between East and West.
The Founding of East Rock Institute
East Rock Institute (initially the Korea Institute) was founded in 1952 and incorporated in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1956 by the husband-and-wife team of Kwang Lim Koh and Hesung Chun Koh. After leaving Cambridge for New Haven, the Koh family continued the Institute and purchased the building that now houses ERI on 251 Dwight Street, adjacent to Yale University, in 1966.
Kwang Lim Koh was born October 20, 1920 in Cheju, South Korea. He immigrated to the United States in 1949 after graduating summa cum laude from what is now Seoul National University Law School. In the United States, he earned five postgraduate degrees, including master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard Law School, a master’s and a doctorate in political science from Rutgers, and a doctorate in law from Boston College.
For the last twenty-three years of his life, Dr. Koh was a professor of political science at Central Connecticut State University. Dr. Koh was also the author of seventeen books, two in English and fifteen in Korean. Dr. Koh was not only a prolific author and scholar, but also a diplomat known for fighting to establish democracy in Korea. In 1960, Dr. Koh served as acting Ambassador from South Korea to the United States, and in the late 1950’s and early 60’s, he led South Korean missions to both the United Nations and the United States.
Dr. Hesung Chun Koh was born in Seoul, Korea and received her bachelors in economics and sociology from Dickinson College and Ewha Womans University, as well as a master’s and doctorate in sociology and anthropology from Boston University.
In addition to serving as the co-founder, chair and president emerita of ERI, Dr. Koh is also director emerita of research and development and East Asian research at Yale University’s Human Relations Area Files. Dr. Koh has taught at Yale Law School, Yale University, Boston University, Albertus Magnus College, the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan and the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto, Japan.
Dr. Koh is the recipient of many prestigious awards including the Connecticut Governor’s Award and the Order of Civil Merit, the highest honor bestowed on a civilian in the Republic of Korea.
ERI’s name, taken from a New Haven landmark, symbolizes the firm foundation and permanent presence of East Asians and Korean studies in the United States.
Board of Directors
- Kwang Lim Koh, Ph.D., SJD
- Hesung Chun Koh, Ph.D. (Director Emerita, HRAF, Yale University)
- Patty J. Lee, M.D. (Yale School of Medicine)
- Harry S. Y. Nam, M.B.A. (The Yucaipa Company)
- Christopher Y. Park, M.D., Ph.D.
(NYU Associate Professor: Cancer control & stem cell & biology of aging)
- Chi-Ann Lin, M.A. (Staples High School)
- Charles M. Smith, CPA (CohnReznick LLP)
Legal Expertise and Adviser
- Hae-Chan Park, Attorney (HC Park & Associates)
- Heseung Song, Ed.D. (Mighty Engine)
- ImJa Choi (Penn Asian Senior Services)
- Yerrie Kim, M.B.A. (Education First)
- Eunsup Shim, Ph.D. (Sacred Heart University)
- Christine Seo (Fine Art Academy)
- Sandra D Wirth, Ed.D. (Goodwin College)
ERI Fellows & Yale Interns
- Kate Huh (Harvard Law School)
- Hayun Cho (University of Southern California)
- Christopher Lee (Yale Law School)