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The Korea Society is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) organization with individual and corporate members that is dedicated solely to the promotion of greater awareness, understanding and cooperation between the people of the United States and Korea. In pursuit of its mission, the Society arranges programs that facilitate discussion, exchanges and research on topics of vital interest to both countries in the areas of public policy, business, education, intercultural relations and the arts.
The Korea Society traces its roots to 1957 when a group of prominent Americans, under the leadership of General James A. Van Fleet of Korean War fame, established the first nonprofit organization in the United States dedicated to the promotion of friendly relations between the people of the United States and Korea "through mutual understanding and appreciation of their respective cultures, aims, ideals, arts, sciences and industries." As it exists today, the Society is the successor to several interconnected organizations pursuing aspects of these objectives which were established through the joint efforts of Americans and Koreans over the ensuing decades, most notably, the New York-based U.S.-Korea Society and the Washington, DC-based U.S.-Korea Foundation. In June 1993, these two organizations were merged to form The Korea Society under the leadership of the Hon. Donald P. Gregg, a former U.S. Ambassador to Korea.
The Society's funding is derived from contributions, foundation grants, membership dues and program fees. It is governed by a distinguished Board of Directors drawn from the fields of business, the professions, academia and public affairs with the support of an Advisory Council whose members are leading public figures in Korea and the U.S. Through its headquarters in New York City and program affiliates in other major U.S. cities, the Society engages diverse audiences across the United States and in Korea.
Each year, The Korea Society gives its James A. Van Fleet Award “to one or more distinguished Koreans or Americans in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the promotion of U.S.-Korea relations.” It is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious awards in the field of U.S.–Korea relations.
In 2006, The Korea Society became the official organizing body for the annual New York Korean Film Festival. Operating since 2001, the New York Korean Film Festival has become the largest showcase of Korean-made films in North America.
From 1993 to 2007, The Korea Society was headed by Hon. Donald P. Gregg, who served as both president and chairman of the board. In January 2007 Gregg stepped down as president while retaining his post as chairman of the board. In September 2009, Thomas C. Hubbard was elected chairman of the board of The Korea Society, with Donald Gregg retiring to the role of chairman emeritus.
In May 2010, Mark C. Minton, U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia until September 2009, joined The Korea Society as president. Minton's foreign service career dates back to 1977, when he served as Political Officer in Tokyo.