The Korea Initiative at University of Wisconsin-Madison
The Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison considers the strengthening of our Korean Studies program to be among our highest priorities. We are the coordinating center for teaching and research about East Asia at UW-Madison. We have a long history of excellence in teaching about East Asia dating back to 1962, and now we are providing leadership in planning for the future of Korean studies on our campus. Our vision is to train a new generation of graduates from across all disciplines who combine linguistic and cultural competence with both historical and contemporary knowledge about Korea, students who can contribute to the ever-growing ties between Korea and the United States.
Enrollments in Korean language and area studies courses at UW-Madison are rapidly rising due to the increased interest in Korea among all students because of current economic trends and international security concerns. A new generation of Korean-American students is seeking more information about their cultural heritage. In addition, UW - Madison has one of the largest concentrations of international students from Korea of any university in the U.S., with over 700 students from Korea. Many of these Korean international students are undergraduates, who want to be able to take the kind of courses about their own history and culture that they would have taken if they attended a Korean university. Responding to student demand, over the past several years our Korean area studies faculty and course offerings have gradually expanded to include areas of strength in dance, music, law, and political science, in addition to Korean language.
We have recently made more rapid progress in expanding Korean studies thanks to alumni contributions which have acted as a catalyst for change. In commemoration of the retirement of Prof. Hyuk Yu in 2004, after his 36 years of service in the Chemistry Department, the UW Foundation established the Professor Hyuk Yu Korean Studies Fund. Contributions from his friends and former students have provided vital seed funds that in turn enabled us to procure a grant from The Korea Foundation. This grant brings a visiting professor to our campus for two years to teach new courses on Korean culture, literature, religion, and philosophy. In addition, support from alumni spurred increased university support for Korean language instruction. This increased university support combined with help from a U.S. Dept. of Education Title VI National Resource Center grant has enabled us to expand Korean language instruction to include 3rd and 4th year level courses. Funds raised by alumni have played a crucial role in this expansion as matching funds which allow us to leverage more support from foundations and other funding sources. Most recently, the Korea Foundation has kindly agreed to a major grant to enable us to establish a new permanent faculty position in Korean History.
This recent growth in Korean studies helps to meet the immediate educational needs of today’s students, but we must now plan a secure future for Korean studies at the University of Wisconsin. To build a solid foundation, we need to create more permanent tenure-track faculty positions in Korean studies to teach students about Korea’s rich culture, history and traditions. Please take a look at the documents linked above to learn more about the Korea Initiative at the Center for East Asian Studies. We think you’ll agree that these are exciting times at UW-Madison, and we invite you join us in building a top-notch Korean studies program to serve present and future generations of students.