Frank K. Upham
Professor, New York University
In the early 1990s, the Dean of New York University School of Law, John Sexton, decided to take a substantial risk. With the advice of colleagues like Norman Dorsen, former longtime President of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Jerome A. Cohen, founder of the modern study of Asian law in the United States, Sexton launched the Global Law School Program. From the viewpoint of the 21st Century a "global" program is nothing new. Indeed, whether called "globalization," "internationalization," or some third term, it would be difficult to find an elite American law school that has not accepted the fundamental premise of the GLSP: that the practice of law in the late 20th Century had broken national boundaries and become a global phenomenon. It followed that American legal education had to do the same if it was to prepare lawyers to succeed in this new environment and, particularly, to build the institutions that could help the world be a more stable and just place.
The idea was bold, but simple -- transform legal education so that it comprehended the new reality. Implementing the idea, however, was anything but simple. It required a faculty that could bring the perspectives, experience, and wisdom of the legal universe outside the U.S. to NYU's Washington Square campus. Needless to say, that faculty had to include a core of non-American scholars who could present their ideas and insights to an American student body and who could interact intellectually with NYU's American faculty at the highest level.
Finding such people was not simple. First, there was a limited number of them in the world, but perhaps more important NYU needed scholars who not only were qualified in an abstract sense but who also had the imagination to understand the goal and the courage to be part of a task that could easily have failed. Prof. Song was one of the handful of people worldwide that was invited and accepted the challenge. He became one of the very first Global Law Faculty at NYU. Along with other pioneers from institutions like Cambridge University, the University of Florence, the Constitutional Court of Germany, and the University of Tokyo, he was instrumental in making the Global Law School Program a success.
Of course, his contribution to NYU is only a small part of Prof. Song's career. But for me as the Faculty Director of the GLSP from 1997-2002 and for the students and faculty of NYU, his years of teaching and leadership have been invaluable. Prof. Song's impact has been undoubtedly greatest in the classroom, where he has made Korean legal culture intelligible and valuable to generations of students not only at NYU but also at other American law schools. Even those not fortunate enough to have had Prof. Song as their personal teacher have been able to learn from his written work in English, including of course his unsurpassed text on Korean law.
It is not solely through teaching and scholarship, however, that Prof. Song has contributed to the world's understanding of Korea, Korean law, and Korean institutions. He has served the Global Law School Program in a myriad of other ways as well. Perhaps the most important has been his leadership in the selection of outstanding Korean students to attend NYU. He has served on the Selection Committee for the Hauser Global Scholars since the beginning of the program and more recently he has advised the Global Public Service Law Project in its search for Korean Lawyers working in the public sector and for the public interest. In these ways he has helped integrate the Korean legal world with American legal education in a tangible as well as intellectual way.
Prof. Song will be honored in Korea for what he has accomplished and helped others accomplish in Korea. For those of us outside of Korea, however, he has been almost equally impressive. I hope that this brief essay can give Korean readers some sense of the respect and gratitude that many Americans hold for him.
Professor of Law
Faculty Director, Global Law School Program
New York University School of Law