'I'll sever part of the long Lunar calendar November and keep it wound up under the quilt of the warm spring wind. Later, on a night when my love comes, I’ll open up the quilt.' This is a part of a well-known Korean poem, a traditional three-line verse, written by Hwang Jinyi. One student at UC Berkeley said it was her favorite Korean poem. Nowadays, many universities in the U.S.A have opened centers for Korean Studies. The Sookmyung Times reporters visited one of those universities, UC Berkeley, to learn about activities and courses those centers offer.
Korean Studies Embracing the World
US citizens first became interested in Korea back in the late Chosun Dynasty when priests came to Korea and engaged in missionary work with the local population. However, the start of Korean Studies at universities in the US came a century later in 1962 when Columbia University established the major East Asian studies. At the beginning the number of enrollees was small, but over the years more and more students got interested in Korean studies. According to research by the National Research Foundation of Korea, there are currently about 60 universities such as Harvard and the University of Southern California now have centers for Korean studies. Following Eastern US, Western US, especially in California at UC Berkeley and UCLA, is becoming the mecca of Korean Studies due to the number of Korean immigrants residing in those areas. In preparation for the Global Explorer Program, three SMT reporters reached out to the Center for Korean Studies at UC Berkeley (CKS) since UC Berkeley has a close bond with Sookmyung, and each summer session, Sookmyung students go overseas to UC Berkeley as exchange students. With all this background and the help of others, SMT was able to successfully secure an interview at the Center for Korean studies.
Korean Studies at UC Berkeley
Immediately upon reaching CKS, Kevin O'Brien, Director of Institute of East Asian Studies welcomed reporters and introduced CKS as an active center for learning at Berkeley. Reporters then interviewed Dianne-Enpa Cho, the program coordinator at CKS, and she informed us that CKS is one of the centers belonging to the Department of East Asian Studies. Other centers include a center for Chinese Studies, Japanese Studies, and Buddhist Studies. Originally, the Center for Japanese and Korean Studies were combined together, but in 1979 a separate Center for Korean Studies was established, recognizing Korea's growing importance in world affairs. She also added that the Center is an active academic center for the study of Korean humanities, social sciences, and other courses. CKS has also hosted many visiting lecturers, sponsored film festivals and international conferences, and so on. Though these activities, the Center helps provide opportunities for visiting scholars as they conduct their research in political, cultural, and arts fields. The Center has a number of Korean nationals as faculty instructors, and she introduced us to their work at the Center. A number of the courses offered at CKS are required courses, and the number of participants of non-Korean ethnicity is increasing continuously. The Center also maintains a high level of course satisfaction among students. Ha Minji, a student registered in a course at CKS, said, "During class, we read about people like Hwang Jini and watch Korean movies. We also read about premodern Korean history. It is fun, and a lot of students are interested in Korean things." The course Minji is taking is a film course with Professor An Jinsu that focuses on Korean literature and history. Besides this course, CKS offers many other diverse courses so that students can communicate with other students continually. Choadded that through CKS Berkeley is able to better welcome cultures and understand other nations’ thinking. Moreover, the number of Koreans in the US has led to an increase in the interest in Korean Studies. Although the university does not yet have a Korean Studies major yet, CKS is working towards this objective.
Sookmyung, Inside the Sea of Korean Studies
Reporters were surprised at the interest in Korean Studies among US students. The visit to the Center for Korean Studies in UC Berkeley led to some ideas for Sookmyung and what the university can add to its current curriculum. At Sookmyung, few lectures related to Korean studies are available for international students in General Liberal Arts. In addition, during the summer and winter vacation session, Sookmyung hosts students from abroad as shortterm exchange students, who have come to Korea to learn about Korean culture. However, those lectures provide little information on Korean literature or movies. Compared to UC Berkeley’s Korean Studies classes, none of the courses at Sookmyung are credit courses. It is time for Sookmyung to offer more advanced level and diverse courses in the Korean Studies program offered to international students. Second, it might be beneficial for Sookmyungians to become scholars of Korean Studies. Robert Buswell, the head of Association for Asian Studies, said although Korean Studies is becoming popular nowadays, there is a shortage of professors and scholars of Korean Studies compared to the numbers in Chinese and Japanese Studies. He also suggested that to improve Korean Studies, countries need to raise young Korean Studies scholars. Sookmyungians should consider taking leading roles in improving Korean Studies. At Sookmyung, one leadership group, Sookmyung Korean Language Education Volunteers, teaches Korean and Korean culture to foreigners on the weekends. Like this leadership group, Sookmyungians might want to rethink Korean traditional culture and teach it to people who are interested in Korea. Korea is a country with a long history and now that the world is showing an interest, Koreans need to act on this interest. It is the duty of Korean society to nurture this interest and Sookmyung can help by enhancing the situation of Korean Studies learning and teaching.
* Special Thanks to Ha Minji of UC Berkeley for helping to prepare for the Global Explorer Program.