Korean Studies MSt

Goryeo dynasty Bodhisattva. Photograph by Joop Dorresteijn. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Korean language and history are recent additions to the Faculty of Oriental Studies. A Master of Studies (MSt) 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. 

This course aims to build on a basic knowledge of modern Korean and classical Chinese or modern Japanese.

The MSt aims:

  • to build your capability in using at least modern Korean for research purposes;
  • to acquaint you with many of the most important classical texts from Korean history, in modern Korean translation or the original Classical Chinese or Old or Middle Korean;
  • to enable you to understand and use a range of classical references and historiographical and linguistic research methods for the treatment of primary sources; and
  • to allow you to engage in specialised study from a wide range of options and exercise your new skills.

You should expect to attend up to ten hours per week of tutorials and should expect to spend an additional thirty to forty hours a week, perhaps more, during each full term for preparation. In addition, you should expect to be set a considerable amount of work during the vacations.
Language instruction, the reading of prescribed texts, and bibliographic or methodological exercises are usually conducted in tutorials for which you are expected to prepare thoroughly in advance. Lectures are provided for instruction on general themes of Korean and East Asian history and critical issues in contemporary and classical Korean linguistics. You are advised to take advantage of public lectures offered on China and Japan, since they also supply historical context, comparative linguistic information, regional background, and comparative perspectives for work in tutorials.

Teaching takes place in tutorials. You are required to prepare thoroughly for whatever is required: language exercises, prescribed readings, essays, bibliographic or methodological exercises, and you should be able to present your preparation in finished form. Depending on the task, the finished form may be written language exercises, essays on linguistics, historical, literary, or cultural topics, or translation from Korean (or Chinese or Japanese) into English.

Outstanding students typically view themselves as ‘researchers in training’ and consciously set about building their competence in the body of secondary reference materials available (in Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese) as an additional aspect of tutorial preparation.

All preparation is for a set of final examinations in the following areas:
--Prescribed texts
--Either Modern Korean unprepared translation or Classical Chinese or Modern Japanese*
--Methodologies for Classical Koreanology or Korean Linguistics
* Candidates who already possess a sufficient knowledge of Modern Korean will be required to choose Classical Chinese or Modern Japanese.
--Candidates are also required to submit a thesis of not more than 15,000 words on a topic approved by the Board of the Faculty of Oriental Studies. The thesis deadline is in the sixth week of the third term. The last time you are able to consult your supervisor for the thesis is one month before the due date.

Aside from the thesis, the course is examined by two, three-hour examinations to be sat at the end (eighth week) of the third term (Trinity) in June, and one examination to be completed in the Bodleian Library as a take-home examination, also during the eighth week of the third term. 

All examination papers and the thesis will be reviewed by examiners, one of whom is from outside the University. The External Examiner shall have the final decision as to whether to award the degree. You will be examined viva voce unless you have been individually excused by the examiners or by the Board of the Faculty of Oriental Studies.

The examiners ordinarily award a pass/fail mark but may award a merit or distinction grade for excellence in the whole examination. A distinction grade should be viewed as a strong recommendation to continue research at the DPhil level.


The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Oriental Studies and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Faculty of Oriental Studies.

Graduates from this degree have gone on to pursue DPhil and PhD degrees in Oxford and elsewhere and some now hold academic posts in leading universities in the UK, Europe, and Korea.

Oriental Studies graduates have found employment in many diverse fields including business, finance, law, civil service, journalism, government, and industry.

Many graduates have also undertaken further research into subjects linked with Oriental Studies and have pursued successful careers in the academic world, education, and in museums.

The Faculty of Oriental Studies has a number of scholarship and funding opportunities across a wide range of subjects. Please see here for a list of these opportunities.

Use the University's fees, funding and scholarship search tool to see what funding you might be eligible for. Apply by the January deadline to be automatically considered for most funding.