About Korean Studies

Currently, UCSD supports two programs in Korean Studies, one in the School of Global Policy & Strategy and the other in the Division of Arts and Humanities. In the future, UCSD will seek to better integrate these two programs and build on them to create one of the premier overseas programs for research and teaching on modern and contemporary Korea. At present, the Korean Studies faculty are working to establish a minor for interested undergraduates.

School of Global Policy & Strategy (GPS) offers a Master of International Affairs (MIA) and a Master of Advanced Studies in International Affairs (MAS-IA) with a regional concentration on Korea, and a joint PhD program in Political Science and International Affairs (with the Department of Political Science)that allow students to focus on Korea.

In the Division of Arts and Humanities, the Program in Transnational Korean Studies (formerly, the Korean Studies Initiative), traces its roots  to the year 2000 when faculty in the division began offering courses on Korean literature and culture to supplement an already established curriculum of Korean language courses. In 2007, the division hired Professor Kyong Park in the Visual Arts department. In 2009, the division also hired Professors Henry and Jung in the departments of History and Music, respectively. While it has a relatively short history, this program is maturing quickly because of increasing student demand, growing university support, and the potential for tighter integration and, therefore, increased synergy with GPS. This program already has five full-time faculty and five affiliated faculty, and we hope to expand it further by hiring an additional ladder-rank faculty member in the near future.

And while the Transnational Korean Studies program in the Arts and Humanities is much younger, it has benefited in numerous ways from collaboration with its counterpart at GPS in co-sponsoring talks, organizing conferences that cross disciplinary boundaries between arts and humanities and the social sciences, organizing an annual Korean film festival, and sharing students. The presence and track record of the Korea-Pacific Program at GPS have been crucial to continuing growth in the arts and humanities. As a result, we are now in an ideal position to integrate the two programs under the name of Program in Transnational Korean Studies.

Korean Studies in North America and at UCSD

In the last two decades, Korean Studies programs in North America have grown dramatically. This remarkable growth has produced several top-tier Korean Studies programs in the humanities, such as at UCLA, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Toronto.

It is not our goal to duplicate these successful programs. Rather, we seek to complement them with a different approach by emphasizing conceptual frameworks marginalized at more mainstream programs. These frameworks include transnational and comparative histories and cultural productions, race, gender/sexuality, migration, and globalization. As a unique and cutting-edge intellectual institution, we want to contribute to Korean Studies by diversifying it. In taking this approach, we believe that we can contribute dramatically to the breadth of Korean Studies programs by making the peninsula even more relevant to groups and communities locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Korean Population and Korean Studies in Southern California

There are approximately 1.3 million Korean Americans in the United States, with more than 505,000 living in California. The greater Los Angeles area has long been a center of Korean business, culture, and academic life. Large Korean American communities exist in Koreatown of Los Angeles, the eastern San Gabriel Valley, the San Fernando Valley, Cerritos/Long Beach, South Bay, Los Angeles, and northern Orange County. Koreans are growing in number in the suburban “Inland Empire” east of Los Angeles, in cities such as Chino Hills, Corona, Desert Hot Springs, and Loma Linda south of San Bernardino. Since 1990, the Korean American population has been relocating westward and northward in the Los Angeles area.

San Diego too has a rapidly growing Korean and Korean American population that provides a community base to support and benefit from local Korean Studies programs. It is diverse, consisting of first-generation immigrants, second- and third-generation Korean Americans, and a large Korean resident population related to Korean businesses in San Diego, including LG’s corporate headquarters.

San Diego is home to three major universities other than UCSD: the University of San Diego, San Diego State University (SDSU), and California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM). The first institution offers a semester exchange program with Korea University Business School, and its Office of Sponsored Programs offers opportunities to conduct policy and science/engineering research in Korea. SDSU initiated a program in Korean Studies in 2008 that “provides students the opportunity to study the Korean language and culture, as well as help students of Korean heritage maintain their cultural roots.” It offers Korean language instruction from beginning to advanced levels and a handful of classes on Korean civilization, culture and society, and media. By contrast, CSUSM offers only one course in beginning Korean language.

Working with these less developed academic programs, we envision that UCSD’s Program in Transnational Korean Studies will become a core resource for Korean and Korean Americans living in the region who have been underserved by the city’s universities. In addition, we will reach out to UCSD alumni from the Transnational Korean Studies program and of Korean heritage, including those living in Korea to build a stronger support community.