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ISDPR History

The Beginning: First as the Population Research Center

Initially named as the Population Research Center, ISDPR here at Seoul National University, was founded in August, 31st 1965 by Professor Lee, Hye Young (1925-1979), one of the founding figures in the college of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. The origin of the center was rooted in the Demographic Statistic Lab, founded by Prof. Lee in 1964. Throughout the history, the center evolved to be what is now the institute of Social Development and Policy Research (ISDPR). As one of the institutes with the richest history in Seoul National University, ISDPR led the fields of demographic studies and its relevant issues. The Fertility Survey in the Gyeonggi Province in 1965, funded by the American Population Council in New York, was one of our representative researches. In the beginning, the center was devoted to the public surveys on demographic shifts, the training of the outstanding scholars, the data collection on various social issues and its publications, the hosting of many academic forums, and the establishment of intellectual partnerships in and out of Korea.

In the 1960s, ISDPR was the center for systematic investigations on various social phenomena such as the transition in global population and its social impacts. Ultimately, ISDPR contributed its insights and brought innovations to the development and execution of various public policies.

The Developmental Phase: Expanding its academic horizon

In 1968, the Population Research center expanded its focus from the demographic shifts to other social issues. Especially, ISDPR was the first in the nation to examine the issues related to the Developmental States. During this phase, ISDPR continued its researches on the demographic matters and its data collection and maintained its duty as the intellectual consultant to the governments. Simultaneously, the institute extended its academic interests to other social subjects, such as economic growth, urbanization, migration, industrialization and labors. With these new subjects, ISDPR endeavored to explore other phenomena such as social poverty, stratification, democracy and civil society. In the 1980s, the institute disinterred the drive and meanings behind the Democratization movement of Korean Society through surveys on the middle-class values and the public attitudes.

Among its various research achievements, ISDPR published (1) Korean Society and the Development of Population (1978), a comprehensive academic research on the demographic issues in Korea, funded by UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), and (2) The Current Issues on Governmental Statistics in Korea (1971-1972), with a critical analysis on the validity of various statistics by Korean government. The institute has also conducted (3)the Validation study on Korean Census in the Icheon region (1974), the nationally renowned research that contributed to raising the bar for the quality of data and analysis, along with the local affiliate – Korean Fertility Survey – to the World Fertility Survey (1974). Additionally, the center won (4) the grants from UNESCO for the Korean International Migration Study (1983) and the Study on the Social Poverty and the Urban Redevelopment (1987-1988). It also carried out various environmental studies such as (5) the Project on the Water Resource and its sanitization, with the support from International Development Research Center (IDRC); and (6) the Project on the Nuclear Energy and the Local interests (1992), commissioned by the Ministry of Science and Technology. The latter was praised for its interdisciplinary approach integrating the Social and Natural Sciences. Lastly, the center has long been (7) the intellectual partner to national broadcasting companies like SBS, KBS, and MBC for various social researches and projects. Through these achievements, ISDPR has become the leading organization with the academic expertise in the existing issues as well as the keen insight to the emerging matters.

Furthermore, The Bulletin, issued since 1972, was valued as a reputable journal for introducing prominent scholars and their accomplishments globally. Concurrently, ISDPR continued to educate prospective scholars through vigorous trainings.

The Leaping Phase: The Era of the Institute for Social Development and Policy Research Began

The 1980s was the time of great changes in Korean Society; internally, the social movement for democratization arose; and externally, the waves of globalization and neoliberalism came in. With such intricate transformations, the academic fields also acknowledged the necessity to revamp its research interests and approaches accordingly. Correspondingly, our institute embraced its scholarly vocation to address various social changes other than demographic shifts and adopted a new name, the Institute for Social Development and Policy Research on its 30th anniversary in March 1995.

During this leaping phase, ISDPR strived to diagnose various social matters, identify their structural causes, and propose appropriate policies imperative to Korean society. Simultaneously, we thrived to carry out researches, promoting mutual understanding and shared interests vital to the East Asian region. The prospect of our research interests consequently expanded to address; the democratization and its political interests; the emergence of an information society with the development of telecommunication industry; markets and its moguls; families and women; rights of social minorities such as the disabled and migrants; culture and religions; and the quality of life after the compressed growth. Moreover, we performed longitudinal∙socio-historical analyses by utilizing its long accumulated data and expertise and yielded macroscopic directions. The Social Quality (SQ) project comprehensively represents all our academic activities and capabilities, which has been funded by the Korea Research Foundation (KRF) since 2007.

Major achievements of ISDPR during this period are as follows: (1) The ‘Reformation Study’ Series (1995-1996) which examined the social reforms of the civilian governments and policies for globalization; (2) ‘Quality of Life Research (1996)’ which contemplated on possible social apparatus for safety in recognition of the Risk Society and its multifarious causes in Korea; (3) ‘Korean Value Surveys (1995-2007)’ which measured public opinions on Korean enterprises and the divisions of the pharmaceuticals; (4) ‘Network Analysis study (2002-2005)’ which delved for the relational structures veiled in Korean society; (5) ‘Human Rights Study (2004-2006)’ which concentrated on minorities and their realities due to the colonialism and Cold War politics in the East Asian region.

Along with its growing expertise and achievements, ISDPR’s sources of funding were also diversified to governmental grants as well as endowments from public and private organizations. And they enabled our institute to focus more on the indigenous developmental model in our society and intensify our intellectual involvements with public policies.

Present and Future: Elevation of the International Status through Internationalization

In the 21st century, the needs for international cooperation have been increasing even in the academic fields – to reach beyond its local boundary. Today, ISDPR strives to extend its research interest to the global society through collaborations with researchers in East Asia and international conferences and provide research opportunities to prominent overseas scholars. Our institute aims to deepen social scientific ways of thinking in Korea through wide ranges of studies and approaches, and seeks to elevate its academic profile as well as that of Korean academia internationally.

The Institute for Social Development and Policy Research has diligently released its research findings since its establishment. Our publications have been the foundation for many scholars to facilitate intellectual exchanges across the world. Additionally, we publish an English journal, Development and Society, three times a year. Since 1972, it has gained a reputation for its meticulous review procedures and profound academic contribution. Consequently, it has now listed as a KCI(Korea Citation Index) journal selected by the National Research Foundation of Korea since 2007 and registered in SCOPUS in 2014 – a turning point for Development and Society to grow further in future.