The University of Washington Jackson School held a celebration Thursday to name the Korea Studies Program for Sen. Paull Shin, who represented the 21st Legislative District.
Shin graduated with M.A. (1969) and Ph.D. (1980) degrees in history from the UW and has played a pivotal role in the development of Korea Studies at UW, said Jackson School Director Reşat Kasaba. He garnered support for Korea Studies from the Korean community, both locally and internationally, as well as supporting legislation to benefit the program.
“I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such things,” Shin said of the honor. “But I’m grateful to this country.” He told the story of being adopted from Korea as a teenager by an American soldier during the Korean War.
Five years ago, Shin also championed legislation in the Washington State Legislature to create the University of Washington Center for Human Rights, which is now one of the best-known centers of its kind in the country.
And he helped to establish the Global Asia Institute, where private and public conversations related to Asia will take place.
Shin was born in Korea in 1935. Orphaned at the age of four, he lived on the streets of Seoul begging for food until the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, at which point he became a houseboy to a group of U.S. Army officers. In 1954, one of them, a dentist named Ray Paull, adopted Shin and took him home to Salt Lake City, Utah. Despite never having been educated in Korea, and knowing little English, Shin completed a GED in 18 months. Shin went on to earn a BA in political science from Brigham Young University, an MPIA from the University of Pittsburgh, and an MA and PhD from the University of Washington. After being elected to the Washington State House of Representatives in 1992, he was elected to the Washington State Senate in 1998.
The first Korean American elected to the Washington State Senate, he represented the 21st Legislative District for 15 years. As former chair of the Senate of Higher Education Committee and a longtime college professor, education has always been one of Senator Shin’s main priorities.
The University of Washington Center for Human Rights was established by an initiative of the Washington State legislature in 2009, following a decade of ambitious program-building on all three UW campuses. In 2008, a generous donation from the Henry M. Jackson Foundation made possible the creation of the Helen H. Jackson Endowed Chair in Human Rights, lending new momentum to longstanding efforts to create an institutional home for human rights at the University of Washington. Sen. Shin sponsored a bill in the 2008-09 Washington state legislative session to create the Center for Human Rights, which was signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire in June 2009.