York University opens office for Korean studies, launches five-year project

York University has launched an exciting project that will position it to become a major centre for Korean studies in North America. Thanks to a five-year, $1.15-million award from the Academy of Korean Studies, the University will expand its education and research activities related to Korea.

The project, “Korea in the World, the World in Korean Studies,” will develop educational and research opportunities for York undergraduate and graduate students, offer scholarships, create new degrees and introduce innovative learning programs and awards related to Korea. Partners in the Korean-Canadian community in Toronto will also participate in the project, offering internship opportunities for students studying Korea.

With a greater diversity of programs, the University will become a leading destination for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing studies of Korea and the Korean diaspora. These students will have a range of research opportunities as well as financial support.

Participants during the KORE event Feb. 1 celebrating the launch of the centre for Korean studies (image: Alex Felipe)

The University officially opened its new Korean Office for Research & Education (KORE) on Feb. 1, which will co-ordinate many of the new initiatives. The opening celebration included panels of experts drawn from North America and Korea, including the inaugural conference titled “Old Problems, New Ideas.”

Byung-ook Ahn, president of the Academy of Korean Studies, delivered the keynote address, “Korean Studies: A Global Perspective.” Moving beyond the subjective boundaries of nationalism, Ahn offered a new global perspective of Korean studies by explaining socio-cultural experiences that have emerged to respond to variant global challenges from the ancient period to the present in Korea. Drawing on his experience as the president of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Korea, he also highlighted the role of social movements including the recent candlelight movement. Ahn presented Korean studies as an important and fruitful field for comparative global studies beyond East Asia, calling KORE to lead the efforts to develop global Korean studies.

In attendance were dignitaries, including: Nanhee Ku, director of the Korean Studies Promotion Service of the Academy of Korean Studies; Tae-In Chung, consul general of the Republic of Korea in Toronto; and Rhonda L. Lenton, president and vice-chancellor of York University.

“The opening of the Korean Studies program is the latest success in a long and productive partnership between York and the academic community in South Korea,” said Lenton. “These new academic and research initiatives are impressive not only for the opportunity they provide to focus on issues of importance in the field of Korean studies, but also in promoting knowledge sharing with the diverse communities we serve.”

All speakers noted an increased focus on studying Korea is timely, and that York University – with a core of experts on Korea – is well positioned to become a leader in understanding problems on the Korean peninsula and working with colleagues in Korea to develop solutions.

Professor Hyun Ok Park of the Department of Sociology is the project’s director, with Professor Mihyon Jeon from the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics as deputy director.

Park said, “KORE will become a Canadian and global hub for a new critical comparative and transnational Korean studies, developing innovative cross-regional studies of the two Koreas and Korean diaspora in the research collaboration with other areas of Asia, the Global South and the Global North.”

Jeon said KORE will accomplish this goal by “leading five cluster activities, namely new critical Korean studies, Korean Canadian studies, transcultural pedagogy, North Korean studies, and resistance and transformative politics.”

Information on upcoming events and activities are posted on the Korean Office for Research & Education website at kore.info.yorku.ca.

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