Korea | University of Oxford
Statue at the Bongeunsa Temple
Bongeunsa Temple in the Gangnam District of Seoul, Korea.
(Image credit: Shutterstock).

Korea

Oxford University has long-standing ties to Korea, a country with over a millennium of recorded history, the world’s 11th largest economy, and 16 companies in the Fortune Global 500. Oxford runs a programme in Korean Studies, with three permanent faculty members and a range of courses on offer to students.

Oxford University Press has an office in Seoul, Korea which is dedicated to ELT (English Language Teaching). As well as producing ELT materials, Oxford University Press Korea supports language teachers in Korea through its teacher training presentations and programmes, including both lectures and workshops on pedagogy. OUP Seoul also offers regular teacher training certificate programmes in addition to providing in-service teacher training, focused discussion workshops, and many other services to promote teacher development in Korea.

Studying

The Faculty of Oriental Studies is home to the University’s academic programmes in Korean Studies, focusing on the language and history of Korea. Since the late 1980s, the University has been working to strengthen Korean Studies, partly in recognition of the priority that language-based studies have for leading global universities such as Oxford. The first full time posts in Korean Studies – a University Lectureship in Korean History and a University Instructorship in Korean Language – were established in June 1994 with the generous support of the Korea Foundation. In July 2006, a generous joint endowment from the Korea Foundation and the International Communication Foundation established a permanent post with the name ‘Young Bin Min-Korea Foundation Lectureship in Korean Language and Linguistics’ at the Oriental Institute. (A ‘Lectureship’ at Oxford is a tenured position, and in some cases lecturers have the stature of full professors. These are permanent, full-time posts and are very different from a Korean lecturer’s position). The post is currently held by Dr Jieun Kiaer.

At undergraduate level, students in Chinese or Japanese can study options in Korean texts, history or language as subsidiary subjects, graduating with degrees in ‘Chinese with Korean’ or ‘Japanese with Korean’. At graduate level, the MSt in Korean Studies prepares students for independent research on Korean topics by familiarising them with a canon of culturally-important Korean texts, by giving a grounding in relevant research methodologies, and by building up students' existing knowledge of Korean, Classical Chinese, or Japanese. The Faculty of Oriental Studies also offers a DPhil in Oriental Studies through which researchers can focus on Korea.

Libraries and Museums

The Bodleian holds an extensive range of rare and ancient Korean resources in its collections. These include two titles which are included on the ‘100 Hangul Heritage’ list, in addition to rare antiquarian printed books, manuscripts, imperial publications, fine portrait albums, and a painted scroll of the funeral procession of King Yŏngjo.

The first arrivals of Korean materials at the Bodleian were a group of books from the New Testament translated in the 1880s into the native Korean script, han’gŭl, by John Ross. Many of the other rare and important Korean books and manuscripts were donated to the Library by Bishop Trollope, who first went to Korea in 1890, less than ten years after Korea was opened to the West. The donation included two manuscripts, one of which is a painted representation of the funeral of Queen Dowager Chô in 1890 (Yŏngjo kukchang palin panch’ado), and a small number of eighteenth and nineteenth century printed Korean texts given in 1927.

Thanks to Oxford’s strong relationship with Seoul National University (SNU), the Bodleian library now holds even more Korean treasures. In March 2009, Professor Jang Moo Lee, President of SNU, visited the University of Oxford to present a generous donation of 400 books from the Kyujanggak Archive, the royal library of the Joseon Dynasty, which is currently maintained by the Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies at SNU.

In March 2012, the Bodleian Libraries were offered the project “Window on Korea” by the National Library of Korea.  The project provided the Bodleian Libraries with up to 4000 volumes in the first year (2012) and 200 volumes annually until 2017. In addition, the National Library of Korea also provided funding to help create a Korean library with an audio-visual room within Oxford’s Oriental Institute Library.

Oxford's Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health and the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) in Korea are both members of the multinational ZikaPLAN consortium, formed as a response to the 2015 Zika virus outbreak. The project was begun in order to develop a response to the original Zika outbreak in the Americas, and, in the longer-term, to improve the ability of countries in that region to deal with future outbreaks of Zika and other infectious diseases.

The University is also a partner, along with the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI), in RadioNet. This is a consortium of institutions that operate leading radio astronomy-related infrastructures, who are working cooperatively to develop, coordinate and integrate their activities in the field.

Scholarships

There are many schemes to help international students with the costs of studying at Oxford at undergraduate and particularly at graduate level, as well as schemes to help students already at Oxford travel abroad.

Societies

For Korean students at Oxford looking for support networks, the student-led Oxford University Korea Society provides a focal point for social and cultural activities. The Society was founded in 1986 by a number of enthusiastic and pioneering students seeking to encourage lively interactions among the Korean population in Oxford and to promote Korea as a nation of both transition and tradition worldwide.

Alumni

Oxford has one alumni group in Korea, the Korean Oxford Alumni Society. Distinguished Korean alumni include:

  • Hak-Gyu Son, politician, leader of the Bareunmirae Party
  • Dr. Jin Park, executive president, Asia Future Institute; former member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea
  • Dr Myungju Choi, director, North Asia Investment Corporation; former president of the Oxford Alumni Association and member of the Presidential Commission on Policy Planning