Statue at the Bongeunsa Temple against the Seoul skyline
Statue at the Bongeunsa Temple against the Seoul skyline
(Image credit: Shutterstock).


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. Oxford University Press 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.

Korean studies at Oxford

Korean Studies at Oxford is based at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and focuses on the language and history of Korea.

Undergraduate 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 Asian and Middle Eastern Studies also offers a DPhil in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies through which researchers can focus on Korea.

The development of Korean Studies at Oxford

The University has worked to strengthen Korean Studies since the late 1980s, 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 Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. (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.

Libraries and museums

The Bodleian Library Korean collections include an extensive range of rare and ancient Korean resources. 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 Korean materials to arrive 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.

In 2009, Seoul National University (SNU) made a donation of 400 Korean books to the Bodleian Library. The books are from the Kyujanggak Archive, the royal library of the Joseon Dynasty, which is currently maintained by the Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies at SNU. This generous donation was presented during a visit to Oxford by SNU's president, Professor Jang Moo Lee.

In 2012, the Bodleian Library was 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 the library at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Collaborations with Korean institutions

Oxford's Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health and Korea's International Vaccine Institute (IVI) are both members of the multinational ZikaPLAN consortium for Zika virus preparedness. The project was begun in order to develop a response to the 2015 Zika virus 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 and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI) are both partners in the RadioNet radio astronomy infrastructure consortium. 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 and travel assistance

There are many schemes offering funding for international undergraduate students and particularly funding for international graduate students to study at Oxford, as well as schemes to help students already at Oxford travel abroad.

Student 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.

Oxford alumni in Korea

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

Notable Korean alumni

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