Dignitaries from Indiana University and from across the world gathered at the School of Global and International Studies auditorium on Friday, Sept. 9 for a celebration marking the start of the Institute for Korean Studies. The Institute was made possible through generous support from The Korea Foundation and kicked off with an official ceremony as well as a day-long conference focused on Korean studies.
In marking the start of the Institute, Indiana University President Michael McRobbie noted the continuing importance of Korea and its importance to the U.S. as a reason to develop more graduates with skills and competencies in Korean studies. “Our efforts to do so have been greatly aided by the remarkably generous grant from the Korea Foundation and three Korean alumni—which allowed us to establish an endowed chair,” McRobbie said. “This watershed moment in IU’s history of international engagement marked the first time that international alumni, in combination with a government organization, contributed in a major way to supporting academic programs at IU through the funding of a chair focused on their home country.”
Director of the Institute for Korean Studies Seung-Kyung Kim said the new institute establishes IU as a regional hub for Korean studies in the U.S. “The Institute for Korean Studies promotes interdisciplinary approaches to the understanding of Korea on campus and beyond,” Kim said. “The Institute advances cultural fluency through providing programs for students, the faculty, and the community, and promotes understanding of Korea. We examine the role of Korea and Koreans, including overseas Koreans, in the world.”
SGIS Dean Lee Feinstein echoed Kim’s remarks, noting the Institute will provide deeper, muluti-dimensional understanding of Korean studies. “Today, like all of the departments and programs at SGIS, the Institute for Korean Studies explores not just economic and security issues but also Korea’s incredible cultural and artistic contributions to the world,” he said.
The new institute builds on the IU’s longstanding commitment to the study of East Asian and Pacific nations, specifically Korea. IU began offering the first Korean language courses in the Midwest in 1962 through the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, now the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. A significant gift by alumni and friends of IU through The Korea Foundation funded IU’s first endowed chair in Korean studies in 2012. Last year, Kim became the inaugural director of the institute and the inaugural Korea Foundation Chair in Korean Studies. The institute already has been awarded two grants from the Korea-based Academy of Korean Studies, including one valued at $1 million.
Former ambassador to the Republic of Korea and current chair of the Korea Society Thomas Hubbard noted how unique these investments are among IU’s peers. “Today, Indiana University joins a small but growing number of universities that have both recognized the importance of the Korean peninsula in geopolitical and international affairs, and devoted substantial resources to building a challenging course of study that will train the next generation of Korean scholars,” he said.
Future generations of scholars and more are precisely what the president of the Korea Foundation, Ambassador Sihyung Lee, said he expected from the investment. “I’m certain all of you share in my belief that this inauguration of the Institute for Korean Studies hardly suggests the culmination of our cooperation,” Lee said. “On the contrary, this will serve as another cornerstone of our joint efforts to further promote Korea-related research, conferences, and publication activities at Indiana University.”
Through written remarks read at the program, President of the Academy of Korean Studies Bae Yong Lee said he expected the Institute opening to signify a new level of cooperation. “The will provide a new momentum for the growth and development of Korean studies in the United States,” Lee wrote.
The largest grant from the Academy of Korean Studies will support expanding the Korean studies curriculum at IU. It will also assist in recruiting graduate students as well as collaborating with Korean programs at the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville, Purdue University and the University of Illinois. An additional $250,000 will support Korean studies research, with another $35,000 funding the inaugural Korean studies conference. In addition, The Korea Foundation recently announced that it will contribute a second gift of $140,000 from a Korean friend of IU to further these goals.
Worldwide, IU now boasts about 4,270 alumni affiliated with Korea — including more than 1,600 alumni living in South Korea — and the university continues to welcome about 1,000 Korean students to its campuses each year. In turn, IU continues to send a sizeable number of its own students to Korea for meaningful study abroad experiences in one of the world’s most dynamic and culturally rich countries.