Law & (Divine) Order

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Law & (Divine) Order

With his soft-spoken tone, relaxed manner, and patch of graying hair on his forehead, Lyou Byung-hwa reminds one of a parish priest. In fact he nearly became one before deciding to become a respected scholar of international law. His hero is St. Francis, the great pacifist and founder of the Franciscan Order in the 13th century. And like St. Francis, Mr. Lyou, 57, asks in prayer daily to be made a vehicle of peace. While his lofty ideals have sometimes been met with doubt and derision, he has quietly and tirelessly pursued his dreams for 20 years.

The founding of the Transnational Law and Business University, a graduate school to cultivate East Asian legal experts, last year has been a significant milestone toward realizing his dreams. "I believe my mission in life is to help achieve permanent peace and prosperity in East Asia and to bring about regional cooperation," Mr. Lyou says of himself.

Mr. Lyou is a diplomat-turned-law professor who has now added the presidency of a graduate school to his impressive resume. His life has been a series of steps in new directions. Born in 1945, he comes from a family of devout Catholics in Haengju, Gyeonggi province, and he began to think about a career in the priesthood beginning in his early teens. He first enrolled at Catholic Theological College, but later began to doubt whether he actually had the divine calling required, he said, of a priest. Then he went to service in the military and in 1969 he turned to the law, enrolling at Korea University. During college, Mr. Lyou became enticed with the idea of serving his country abroad saying, "in those days, it was prestigious to become a diplomat." After graduating he passed the Foreign Service examination, ranking first in his peer group, and served at Korean embassies in France and Senegal. During his tenure in Paris studying for his Ph.D., Mr. Lyou began to observe and admire the active political, economic and social exchanges taking place among European communities. "I thought to myself, I wish that could happen in Asia," he said. "Unlike Europe, which has a history of two millennia of active social, religious exchanges among its people, Asia has been traditionally a noninteractive continent. Establishing an educational institute to train and foster future leaders of Asia would, I thought, contribute to the sense of community in this region."

Mr. Lyou received a doctoral degree from the University of Paris in 1979, and the following year left the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after seven years to lecture in law at Korea University, a position he held until February 2001. He served both as dean of academic affairs and dean of the college of law during his tenure there. In 1987, he and some of his former students set up a firm called Transnational Law and Business University System to provide legal and financial services to governments and private citizens. He was also promoting student exchanges between China and Korea and setting up a network of international scholars to help realize his dream of pan-Asian exchanges. All those threads came together in the founding of the school last year. When he went about establishing his vision, many of his fellow professors were sorry to see him go. "He could not have accomplished what he did without the strong religious convictions that he had,"says Park No-hyeong, Professor of Law at Korea University who once studied under Mr. Lyou.

However, Dr. Lyou's efforts to raise funds and gain approval for the new school took a toll during his last months at Korea University. A former student who studied with Dr. Lyou says, "because he was always immersed in establishing his 'grand vision,' he was never really there for us."

Mr. Lyou's 'instrument of peace,' the Transnational Law and Business University is situated high on a mountainside near Goyang city, in what was once a protected military area of Gyeonggi province. The two gray, modern but desicript buildings, which are six stories high, are secluded from the city, and pine trees that drape the mountainside surround the campus. Next to the entrance of the main building there is a small statue of the Christ child, "a symbol of peace," Mr. Lyou says. Over the main entrance door is a sign that reads, "Pax domini sit semper omnibus," Latin for "The peace of Heaven be always with you." There are pieces of Christian life everywhere. Although the school does not go out of its way to evangelize students who are Muslims, Buddhists and agnostics, Mr. Lyou says, "I want students who come here to have a positive impression of Christianity, so we try to stress the virtues and deeds of the saints."

The school curriculum focuses on three main areas: international law, regional studies and U.S. and European legal systems, and does not separate majors. All courses are taught in English by nine professors, who are mostly native English speakers from American and European universities.

Although it is too early to make an assessment about the practicality of the school's utopian ideas, the government seems unconcerned at the moment. "As long as the school meets the criteria we set for the amount of students and campus grounds, there is no need for us to assess the future and substance of this special institution," says Chang Seok-hwan of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources.

The present school in Goyang city also emphasizes leadership training in addition to instilling broad legal expertise. "We are training leaders to have admirable character," Mr. Lyou said. In a course entitled, 'Personal virtue and character,' students are given a dose of Christian-based morality. During lunch, loudspeakers broadcast the school song, or 'alma mater song', whose lyrics are based on the famous "Prayer of Peace" of St. Francis.

The student body is selected from a pool of candidates with bachelor's degrees in law from Asian universities. It gives full scholarships to all its 73-students, including first and second year students. Because of the school's geographical isolation, the students spend most of their time on the campus, which is the size of four football fields (132,000 square meters). "I don't mind staying in the grounds much, because I can concentrate on studying," said Sun Sam Nang, 22, a student from Cambodia. Only a few venture out to Seoul on weekends.

Most students see Mr. Lyou as almost a father figure. During lunch, he asks a student from China who has been ill for sometime, "Are you better now?" Zhang Uan Jiao nodded and gave him a feeble smile. She does not eat kimchi, and he teases her, saying, "In Korea, you must eat Korean food." Like a priest who knows his flock, Mr. Lyou seems to know all his students and their backgrounds. More than half the students are from China; the rest come from Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and Burma. The aim was to recruit from all East Asian countries including Japan. "We chose the best and the brightest from those countries," Mr. Lyou said. Bian Dong Liang, 22, is a graduate of the law department at Fudan University in China, who applied to the school because of the unique program, he said. "The courses they teach are really multinational and they gave me a scholarship. My friends back home envy the opportunity that I have been given."

It is no secret that Mr. Lyou put in much of his own money for the establishment and operation of the school, but much of the financial support came from close associates and private investors such as Daeyang E&C, an information-technology firm based in Seoul.

Mr. Lyou believes that the school is his "divine project." He is nevertheless humble in saying, "I am merely a coordinator to the endeavors of many who have helped me. The outcome of what I do, I leave to heaven."

by Choi Jie-ho

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