Students present research in South Korea

March 22, 2018
Students continue study of Olympic anti-corruption legacy in South Korea

Last year, students in Prof. Andrew Spalding’s Corruption in International Sports course traveled to South Korea to continue their research into the anti-corruption efforts surrounding the Olympic games. This year, a return trip brought them back to Korea as a culmination of the project. Students had the opportunity to attend the 9th International Sports Business Symposium and present their research at the prestigious Yonsei University – with a little spare time left over to attend the Olympic games. 

On their previous trip, students had the opportunity to meet with Kim Young-ran, former Korean Supreme Court justice who authored the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act, a piece of groundbreaking anti-corruption legislation that has had a massive impact on Korean politics and culture. On this visit, Young-ran came to Yonsei University with the Richmond Law team as their guest. Spalding and the students presented their research to a group of both faculty and press.

“It was unique just to stand up in front of the entire faculty of another law school,” said Stuart Hamm, L’18, who researched the Sochi Olympics and Russian governance policies as his contribution to the project. “I would imagine it’s really weird to have your culture explained to you,” said Justin Hill, L’18, who researched the International Olympic Committee (IOC) bylaws and their impact on preventing corruption. But the team found an audience that was engaged in the material, active in conversation – and willing to push back on certain topics, giving the students an opportunity to further refine their research.
That cultural exchange aspect of the project was an important part of the project. “It’s very strange … to walk into the equivalent of Hunton Williams in Korea and talk about their laws,” said Hill. “Learning how to interact on a professional level with people from other countries is something that takes a little getting used to,” but that has worthwhile pay-off: “Cultural exchange is always a benefit,” said Hill.
For Heidi Drauschak, L’18, who focused on the bidding process and how anticorruption measures could be implemented within the bidding and candidature processes, part of the allure of the course was the opportunity for impact. “The legacy we’re trying to leave is actual change,” said Drauschak.
For Spalding, that “actual change” is what he refers to as an anti-corruption governance legacy. “Starting just last year, the IOC has adopted in its model host city contract a provision requiring the host city to adopt anti-corruption measures,” said Spalding. The goal for him and his team is to explore what next steps the IOC could take to require host cities to adopt further anti-corruption measures – and what that might look like in practice.
The real-time nature of the work is part of the appeal of the class, according to the students. For Drauschak, the two-year experience “showed us how dynamic the law can be.” In most of legal education, she explained “it can feel like you’re just learning about history.” But with this course, “seeing things … develop in real time and getting to watch how an organization and countries and individuals react to all these proposals was very exciting.” Natalie McKiernan, L’18, who researched Korean culture and how norms and traditions interact with contemporary understandings of anti-corruption, put it this way: “Until I took this course, the law felt so static to me.” But, as Hamm added, “We’re not studying specific laws that have been written down for 200 years. We’re on the forefront of the international anticorruption field.”
For McKiernan and other students, the course exemplified the best of what legal education has to offer. “Taking this class with Professor Spalding has truly been one of the defining points of my law school experience,” she said. Hill explained, “One of the things I really loved about Richmond was being able to be in a smaller class and have more of a connection with professors, but I never expected it to this extent.” He added, “It was kind of exactly was I was looking for in law school.”