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Celebration today to launch IU's Institute for Korean Studies

  • Sept. 9, 2016

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

By Michael Reschke

The Midwest hasn’t been a stronghold for Korean studies, but the director of Indiana University’s new Institute for Korean Studies wants to let people know that’s about to change.

“Hopefully, with IU and its long tradition in area studies, we can build a strong program in Korean studies here,” said Seung-kyung Kim. “That’s what I want to announce to other schools in the U.S.”

She’ll get her chance Friday, when IU celebrates the formal opening of the institute with a ceremony from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the School of Global and International Studies building, 355 N. Jordan Ave., in Bloomington.

The event, open to IU students, faculty, staff and the greater Bloomington community, will include musical performances and remarks from Kim, IU President Michael McRobbie and School of Global and International Studies Dean Lee Feinstein.

“It’s something for us to let the community and other institutes know we are on the map, and IU will try very hard to be a hub for the region,” Kim said.

She has already worked to secure two grants, one valued at $1 million, from the Korea-based Academy of Korea Studies, to help do that. Kim said she plans to work with higher education institutions in the region that don’t have much in the way of Korean studies, such as Purdue University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and the University of Illinois. She’s trying to establish a scholar-in-residence program next year that will allow an expert in an area such as Korean family studies to visit those institutions during his or her stay at IU.

“While here, this person will travel to the four institutions to give talks, meet with faculty and encourage them to be interested in Korea studies,” she said.

Prior to today’s opening ceremony, there will be a conference called “Peace Corps Volunteers: The Making of Korean Studies in the United States,” from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1:15 to 3:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Global and International Studies building, Room 0001.

Many of the scholars who will be speaking at the conference went to Korea as Peace Corps volunteers in the 1960s. They are now close to retirement and are considered the founders of Korean studies in the United States.

“I wanted to have them reminisce about their experiences, but at the same time, more of what I’m interested in is how and where the Korean studies program in the U.S. should go from here,” Kim said.

She already has some of her own ideas, which include establishing a Ph.D. program at IU in the next seven or eight years.

In the near future, Kim hopes to connect with Korean corporations that have ties to Indiana and set up internship programs for IU students.

Overall, Kim believes the new institute will help IU excel in an area where she said other institutions fall short. At other universities, she said, East Asian studies tend to focus on China and Japan, while Korea is relegated to the margins.

“That’s not going to happen here,” she said