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Summer 2011 Table of Contents

CAS to Add Professorship in Korean Literature

Position will offer students new minor

| From Commonwealth | By Rich Barlow

Yongmaan Park (GSM’82), chair of the BU Alumni Association of Korea, says BU’s program on Korean culture and literature “is very significant” and could prompt other world-class universities to consider offering similar studies. Photo by Keith Vincent

This is a story about literature, summarized in the language of math: the two Koreas’ global importance + BU’s burgeoning Korean student and alumni bodies = a new professorship at the College of Arts & Sciences.

The college will hire a scholar in Korean literature and comparative literature to complement its existing four-year instruction in Korean language. (There are also courses in Korean cinema and media.)

“I’m proud of the role CAS plays in providing a firm foundation to our profile as a global university,” says Virginia Sapiro, dean of Arts & Sciences. “Research and teaching in a carefully selected and well-supported set of languages and cultures is essential to any serious claim to global excellence, and I am delighted that we can elevate the presence of Korean language and culture as part of our outstanding offerings in Asian studies.”

The Korea Foundation, established by South Korea to create overseas professorships in Korean language and studies, will pay “a large portion” of the professor’s salary for the first three years, after which the University will take over, according to Sarah Frederick, a CAS associate professor of Japanese and acting chair of the modern languages and comparative literature department. The new literature instruction also will permit BU to offer a minor in Korean language and literature, she says.

The expansion of Korean instruction acknowledges several trends: South Korea’s ascent to a major world economy; recent tensions with North Korea, from the collapse of defense talks with South Korea to concerns about its nuclear drive; and rising interest in Korean studies in the American academy. According to the Modern Language Association, course enrollments in Korean language study nationally hit 8,511 in 2009, a 19 percent increase from three years earlier and the largest increase, after Arabic, in foreign language enrollment during the three-year period.

With BU’s reputation for East Asian scholarship rising on the back of a critical mass of faculty experts, the new position “will fill a gap and enrich this discussion,” Frederick says. A specialist on Japanese women writers between the world wars, Frederick also cites BU’s South Korean undergraduate and graduate student population (at 655, second only to Chinese as the largest foreign contingent) and the fact that Korean is the ninth most commonly spoken language in the United States.

“It is noteworthy that the number of students enrolled in Korean studies and language continues to grow and that over half of them are not descendants of Koreans,” says Yongmaan Park (GSM’82), chair of the BU Alumni Association of Korea. “As more BU graduates, who will become the future leaders in many parts of the world, continue to have better understanding of the Korean culture, Korea will have more opportunities to receive its well-deserved status with a fair recognition in the world.”

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