Korean studies

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Korean studies is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of Korea, which includes the Republic of Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and diasporic Korean populations. Areas commonly included under this rubric include Korean history, Korean culture, Korean literature, Korean art, Korean music, Korean language and linguistics, Korean sociology and anthropology, Korean politics, Korean economics, Korean folklore, Korean ethnomusicology and increasingly study of Korean popular culture. It may be compared to other area studies disciplines, such as American studies and Chinese studies. Korean studies is sometimes included within a broader regional area of focus including "East Asian studies".

The term Korean studies first began to be used in the 1940s, but did not attain widespread currency until South Korea rose to economic prominence in the 1970s. In 1991, the South Korean government established the Korea Foundation to promote Korean studies around the world.[1]

Korean studies was originally an area of study conceived of and defined by non-Koreans. Korean scholars of Korea tend to see themselves as linguists, sociologists, and historians, but not as "Koreanists" unless they have received at least some of their education outside Korea and are academically active (for example publishing and attending conferences)in languages other than Korean (most Korean studies publications are in English but there is also a significant amount of Korean Studies activity in other European languages), or work outside Korean academia. In the mid-2000s, Korean universities pushing for more classes taught in English began to hire foreign-trained Koreanists of Korean and non-Korean origin to teach classes. This was often geared towards foreigners in Korean graduate schools. There are now graduate school programs in Korean Studies (mostly active at the MA level) in most of the major Korean universities. BA programs in Korean Studies have now been opened at two Korean universities. The BA programs are distinctive in that they have few foreign students.

Debates in the Field[edit]

What exactly Korean Studies is, who is teaching it, who is learning, and what should be taught continues to be debated.

There has been a small series of works debating Korean Studies published in academic journals. A sort of historical overview by Charles Armstrong titled "Development and Directions of Korean Studies in the United States" comes strongly from Armstrong's perspective teaching history at Columbia University, as his work: "Focusing on the discipline of history, ... traces the emergence of Korean Studies in the 1950s, the evolution of the field and the changing backgrounds of American scholars working on Korea in the 1960s to 1980s, and the rapid growth of Korean Studies since the early 1990s." [2] Another historian, Andre Schmid published an early contribution to the debate in 2008, challenging the ways that English academia was pushing or shaping the directions of Korean Studies. Schmid explained, "In the unequal global cultural arena where English still dominates, the direction of Korean Studies in the United States disproportionately shapes international representations of Korean culture." [3] University of Berkeley Sociologist John Lie contributed two pieces to the debate, the more recent of which challenged the Korean Studies, claiming "senior Koreanists seem rather content with their progress, telling their followers bizarre tales from the field and seeking to reproduce the archaic and mistaken Harvard East Asia paradigm." Lie discusses the weaknesses he sees in this paradigm for the remainder of the essay.[4] In 2018 CedarBough T Saeji published an article in Acta Koreana bringing in the perspective of teaching Korean Studies in Korea, focusing on "1) the struggle to escape the nation-state boundaries implied in the habitual terminology, particularly when teaching in the ROK, where the country is unmarked (“Han’guk”), the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is marked (“Pukhan”), and the diaspora is rarely mentioned at all; 2) the implications of the expansion of Korean Studies as a major within the ROK; 3) in-class navigations of Korean national pride, the trap of Korean uniqueness and (self-)orientalization and attitudes toward the West." [5]

Notable centers of Korean studies outside Korea[edit]

A-Z order

Korean Studies Programs in Korea[edit]

A-Z order

Academic Journals[edit]

  • The Journal of Korean Studies (JKS) has just moved to George Washington University after stints at University of Washington and Columbia.
  • Korean Studies (KS) University of Hawaii.
  • Korea Journal Formerly published by the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, Seoul, South Korea, this journal is now published by the Academy of Korean Studies.
  • Acta Koreana Keimyung University, Daegu.
  • Chosen Gakuho: Journal of the Academic Association of Koreanology in Japan, Tenri University.
  • Korean Culture and Society, Association for the Study of Korean Culture and Society.
  • Routledge Research on Korea Series.

Associations for Korean Studies overseas[edit]


The term Koreanists indicates academic scholars of Korean language, history, culture, society, music, art, literature, film and more. Noted Koreanists are usually adept in Korean, even if they are citizens of foreign countries.

Notable Koreanists in different fields include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Introduction". Korean Foundation website. Archived from the original on 2005-12-20. Retrieved 2006-01-12.
  2. ^ Armstrong, Charles (2014). [archive.much.go.kr › cmm › fms › FileDown "Development and Directions of Korean Studies in the United States"] Check |url= value (help). Journal of Contemporary Korean Studies. Korea. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  3. ^ Schmid, Andre (2008). "Korean Studies at the Periphery and as a Mediator in US - Korean Relations". 사이間SAI. Korea.
  4. ^ Lie, John (2017). "The Tangun Myth and Korean Studies in the United States". Transnational Asia: An Online Interdisciplinary Journal. USA. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  5. ^ Saeji, CedarBough (December 15, 2018). "No Frame to Fit It All : An Autoethnography on Teaching Undergraduate Korean Studies, on and off the Peninsula". Acta Koreana. Korea. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  6. ^ Lee, Sung-Yoon (September 6, 2017). "The Way to Make North Korea Back Down". The New York Times. USA. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved December 1, 2017.
  7. ^ "North Korea has compelling need to conduct more missile..." CNBC. USA. September 21, 2017. Archived from the original on September 14, 2017. Retrieved December 1, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Noriko Asato, ed. (2013). "Korea". Handbook for Asian Studies Specialists: A Guide to Research Materials and Collection Building Tools. ABC-CLIO. p. 289+. ISBN 978-1-59884-843-4.

Library guides[edit]

External links[edit]