Korean Studies at Oxford

Deoksu Palace, Seoul

Deoksu Palace, Seoul

Korean language and history are recent additions to the Faculty of Oriental Studies. Some teaching of Korean language was offered intermittently over the years, and a fixed-term University Instructorship in Korean Language was established from January 1994. This was followed by a fixed-term University Lecturership in Korean History from June 1994. Both of these posts were made possible by a generous start-up grant from the Korea Foundation. Over the decade to 2004, a further grant from the Korea Foundation and generous gifts from Dr. Chong Hee Seung and former Minister Lee Yun Taek have supported Korean Studies and kept it alive at Oxford.

A Master of Studies (M.St.) in Korean Studies was approved in spring 1995 and graduated its first student in the spring of 1996. Since then, a good number of students have taken the degree, some with Distinction. Although undergraduate students could prepare for individual examinations in Korean language or Korean history, from 2003, students of Chinese and Japanese can take three ‘papers’ in Korean: Language, Classical Texts, and History and Culture, effectively constituting 30% of their degrees and allowing them to graduate with degrees in ‘Chinese with Korean’ or ‘Japanese with Korean’. Other undergraduate options in Korean also exist. Students of Chinese can read Korean classical texts in Classical Chinese. Students of Chinese and Japanese can write their undergraduate dissertations on an aspect of Korean history or Korean Linguistics.

In June 2005, the University established a permanent post in Korean History, and in July 2006, a generous endowment from the Korea Foundation and the International Communication Foundation established a permanent post with the name ‘Young Bin Min-Korea Foundation Lecturership in Korean Language and Linguistics’. The establishment of a full undergraduate degree in Korean Studies awaits permanent funding for a third post; until then, we can offer Korean subjects only as options within existing undergraduate programmes in Chinese and Japanese. Undergraduate interest in Korean Studies is strong and expanding. For more information about these courses, please follow the links in the left-hand menu.

Oksan sŏwŏn (Oksan Academy), given its name in 1574, Oksan-ri, An’gang-ŭp, Kyŏngju-si, North Kyŏngsang Province.

Oksan sŏwŏn (Oksan
Academy), given its name in
1574, Oksan-ri, An’gang-ŭp,
Kyŏngju-si, North
Kyŏngsang Province.

Faculty

Dr. James Lewis works on Korean and Japanese history from ca. 1600 to 1850 and has published extensively on relations between the two countries, focusing on trade and diplomacy (Frontier Contact Between Choson Korea and Tokugawa Japan, Routledge, 2003), cultural exchange (‘A Scroll of the 1748 Korean embassy to Japan preserved in the British Museum’, Acta Koreana, Vol. 13, No. 1, 2010, pp. 51-88), and war (The Imjin War: Hideyoshi’s Invasion of Korea, an edited volume in development). His recent work is collaborative and focuses on the economic history of Choson Korea, drawing attention to demand-side drivers (‘Korean Expansion and Decline from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century: A View Suggested by Adam Smith’, The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 68, No. 1, March 2008, pp: 244-282). He is also preparing papers with collaborators using rare, original documents from North and South Korea that demonstrate an 18th-century Korean double-entry bookkeeping method.

Dr Jieun Kiaer’s research focuses on the nature of syntactic motivations. In her recent book Pragmatic Syntax (to be published in 2013), she argues that the fundamental syntactic motivation is pragmatic in nature. Mainly based on a large corpus investigation, the study shows that linguistic structures have been built and are built in order to maximise the efficiency of human communication and at the same time to meet expressive goals, adding different dimensions of meaning to propositions. Dr Kiaer also works on the role of prosody in syntactic realisation. For this, she is investigating the Sejong Spoken Korean Corpus along with Korea University Spoken Corpus in collaboration with Prof Jiyoung Shin from Korea University. Dr. Kiaer is also actively engaged in developing textbooks for Korean language and linguistics. Her most recent publication (co-authored with Jiyoung Shin and Jaeun Chaa), The Sounds of Korean, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012.

Dr Young-hae Chi is University Instructor in Korean at the Oriental Institute. He worked as a military specialist at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul, before he came to study at Oxford in 1988. Having been trained both as a political scientist and a theologian, he has been researching in the interdisciplinary field of politics, theology, and religion. Recently he gave a public lecture on ‘An Augustinian Conception of Ownership and its Implication for Mission’ for the Montagu Barker Lecture Series at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies in Oxford. Presently his research focuses on the impacts of environmental crises on politics and religion in Korea. He presented a paper on ‘Environmental Crises and Political Convergence in the Far East’ at the British Association for Korean Studies Symposium on the ‘Korea of 2023’ in London. He is presently working on religious harmony revolving around environmental movements in contemporary Korea in collaboration with Korean specialists in Buddhism and Confucianism.