Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Korean Studies Require Substantial Support amid Hallyu Boom

The Munhwa Ilbo

When the craze for Korean popular entertainment is spreading across the world, Korean studies scholars from many countries are meeting in Seoul, from July 7-9, for an international symposium organized by the Korea Foundation.

The booming interest in learning and researching Korea`s language, culture, economic development and democratization process around the world may be attributed to the growing recognition of Korea in the international community. Korea`s success is assuring developing and poverty-stricken countries suffering from vicious cycles of ethnic and religious conflict, hatred and deprivation that they can improve their conditions by promoting education, economic development, free trade and democracy.

The U.S. public network, PBS, is airing a series of “The Kimchi Chronicles.” On July 6, hallyu fans in New York and Los Angeles staged flash mobs asking for K-pop concerts to be held in their cities. A recent K-pop concert in Europe made headlines, but hallyu is spreading more broadly to such Middle Eastern countries as Iran and Egypt, Africa and South America, stirring up dreams among numerous young people. The favorable reception of Korean culture and values in the name of hallyu in the global community and the rise of Korean studies as an academic discipline attest to the growth of Korea`s soft power.

Professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University, who analyzed a nation`s power in terms of soft power instead of military might, said, “A country may obtain the outcomes it wants in world politics because other countries admire its values, emulate its example, aspire to its level of prosperity and openness.” However, the Korean government`s budget leaves too much to be desired when it comes to assisting overseas programs in Korean studies. Oxford University almost closed its Korean studies program in 2005. In 2009, the Korean government invited criticism by reneging on its promise to support research funding in seven universities in the United States, Japan and Germany.

Proposals for support to Korean studies abroad have been pushed back in the assessment of priorities on grounds that they are not urgent. But it is time to drastically increase support for overseas Korean studies programs in order to nurture Korea`s soft power and disseminate Korea-spawned hopes and dreams across the global community.
[ July 8, 2011 ]
Source: KOREA FOCUS (Magazine)

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