Harold H. Koh ’75, a professor of international law at Yale, will take the helm of its law school in July 2004, the school announced yesterday.
Though Koh will assume one of Yale’s highest positions, his ties to Harvard remain strong.
As a member of Harvard’s Board of Overseers, the University’s 30-member alumni governing board, Koh regularly comes to Cambridge to discuss University policy and often talks with President Lawrence H. Summers.
In an interview yesterday, Koh said he plans to follow the policies of Anthony Kronman, the outgoing Dean of Yale Law School. Koh said he is devoted to renewing the faculty, stressing globalization and the relationship between faculty and students and calling students to public service.
Koh said he is also conscious of what his background as a Korean immigrant means to his role as dean.
“Only in America can one generation be an ambassador to the United States, and the next generation be an ambassador of the United States,” he said.
Koh also acknowledged the new challenges facing international lawyers following Sept. 11.
“After 9/11,” he said, “we also have a question about how much we care about the role of human rights in a world of terror.”
Koh is one of the world’s leading experts on international law.
He served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor from 1998 to 2001 and has received international praise for his work as a human rights advocate.
In addition to his “talent, integrity and vision, ” Koh’s outstanding international scholarship was one of many reasons he was suggested for the deanship, according to Kate Stith, a member of the search committee that recommended Koh for the job and a professor at Yale Law School.
“Legal scholarship, like all scholarship, can no longer be limited to the legal practices of one nation,” she said.
Koh first arrived in New Haven in 1961, after a military coup in his native Korea forced his family to leave the country.
When Yale offered his father, a Korean diplomat, a visiting professorship, Koh and his family moved to New Haven.
After studying at Harvard College, Oxford and Harvard Law School, Koh worked as a law clerk and practiced at the Covington and Burling law firm and the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice. He then returned to New Haven and joined the faculty of Yale Law School in 1985.
Though Koh works for Harvard’s biggest rival, he notes that many of his extended family members are closely tied to the University.
Two of his nephews, Steven A. Koh ’04 and Dan A. Koh ’07, are undergraduates at the College.
And his brother, Howard K. Koh—who was an undergraduate and medical school student at Yale—is the associate dean of public health practice at the Harvard School of Public Health.
With his family’s loyalties split, Harold Koh said he is reluctant to pick sides in this year’s Harvard-Yale Game, which will take place in New Haven on Nov. 22.