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Guide to Korean Studies at GW

Korean Studies at George Washington University
Guide for Developing Library Collections and Services / October 2020


Departments, Programs and Institutes at GW

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS): Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, Major and Minor in Korean Language and Literature

Courses regularly offered: 

Language and Literature: Beginning Korean I, II; Intermediate Korean I, II, III, IV; Korean Literature in Translation I, II; Readings in Modern Korean I, II; Advanced. Korean Conversation and Composition; Introduction to Korean Linguistics I, II
Culture and Society: Korean Culture Through Film; Korean Arts and Culture; Introduction to the History of Korean Language; North Korean Society and Culture

Elliott School of International Affairs (ESIA):

Asian Studies Master of Arts

Korea is one of five thematic specializations within the Asian Studies masters program. Korea focused courses not listed above include:

History and Politics: Special Topics (History of North Korea); Japan's Empire and Its Legacies; Special Topics in Asian Studies (Politics of the Past in Korea); Korean Politics
Language proficiency requirement: Students in the Asian studies program are required to demonstrate proficiency in a modern language other than English by passing the Elliott School-administered foreign language proficiency reading and speaking examination at the currently-required level of proficiency. Failure to pass the examination for a third time results in dismissal from the program.(Korean focused course listed under the CCAS)

Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Asian Studies

Undergraduate course focusing exclusively on Korea and not listed above include:

History and Politics: History of Korea; Politics in the Two Koreas; Special Topics (The Korean War)
Language requirement: Students must demonstrate third-year proficiency in a modern foreign languages (Chinese, Japanese, or Korean) by examination or coursework (Korean focused course listed under the CCAS)

Institute for Korean Studies (GWIKS)

Founded in the year 2016, the GW Institute for Korean Studies (GWIKS) is a university wide institute housed in the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University. The establishment of the GWIKS was made possible by a generous grant from the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS). The mission of GWIKS is to consolidate, strengthen, and grow the existing Korean studies program at GW, and more generally in the greater D.C. area and beyond. The Institute of Korean Studies enables and enhances productive research and education relationships within GW, and among the many experts throughout the region and the world.

Core and Affiliate faculty, and Staff
Visiting Scholars: current, past, and application process

Sigur Center for Asian Studies

The Sigur Center promotes research and policy analysis on East, Northeast,Southeast, and South Asia through an active program of publishing, teaching, public events, and policy engagement. The Center draws on the expertise of 60+ world-class faculty members throughout GW to offer the largest Asian Studies program in metropolitan DC. 

Together with the GW Institute for Korean Studies (GWIKS), the Center supports the East Asia National Resource Center, a Title VI center of academic excellence.


GW Core Korean Studies Programs: Overview

Korea-focused core faculty conduct teach and research on all aspects of Korean history, culture, and society with an emphasis  on North Korean literature and films, North Korean Society and Culture, Korean syntax and phonology. Historians lecture on and conduct research focusing Korean politics and foreign diplomacy of the turn of the 20th century, Korea's current relations with neighboring countries from the Three Kingdoms era to present. Multiple political science professors in the Political Science conduct research and analysis focusing on Korea-China and Korea-Japan relations during both historical and contemporary eras. 

Focus on Korea outside Korea-Focused Courses

The study of Korea is also rooted in more broadly focused faculty research and course offerings across the university. The programs and departments that these faculty members are home to include international affairs, security policy, economics, history, political science, international business, education, and media and public affairs. The themes emerging from their teachings and research across these many departments cover not only Korean language and culture but also themes such as  the Three Kingdoms and Three Dynasties of Korea, Japanese colonization period, Korean war, democratization of Korea, government led economic development plans that led to the miracle on the Han River,  issues of modern Korea such as gender racial economic discrimination or social movements, Korean culture within the context of  issues of Korean society, the intersection of Confucian philosophy and democracy in Asian countries, English literature and the Korean American diaspora, the influence of US policy on Korean domestic politics, the economic development model of Korea in comparison to other developing countries, war crimes and genocide in Korea during the Japanese occupation and Korean War, Chinese views on North Korea, Soviets' cooperation with Korea after World War II, South Korean directors of films and plays, and Korean diaspora studies. There are infinitely more topics, particularly as students consider their research topics in each course.

Courses Where Korea-Focused Themes Appear

Political Economy of Industrializing Asia; Global Financial Environment; International Politics and Security Policy; the Politics of U.S. Foreign Policy; Introduction to International Politics; Introduction to Asian American Cultural Studies; Asian American Literature; Political Economy; War Crimes Trials; China, India and Beyond; Dance History; Race, Gender and Shakespeare. 

Challenges to Meeting Research and Educational Needs

Faculty, visiting researchers, and GW's growing undergraduate and graduate student population possess diverse skill sets in terms of how they approach classroom instruction and research. Their focus varies greatly from discipline-specific to highly interdisciplinary, and from concentrating primarily in the humanities to focusing exclusively on policy-related topics that span the spectrum of disciplines (e.g., environmental, security, crime, cultural exchange, and terrorism). Corresponding research methodologies employed within disciplines become hybridized as interdisciplinary efforts cross academic boundaries, creating a highly complex environment. Also, a student or researcher's ability to approach specialized research material is guided by their command of the language, which varies widely from fluency in Korean to an English-only skillset. 

Faculty members express a strong interest in wanting to include the Korean perspective in what they teach to students and their own research. Of particular interest to them is helping students to conduct course-related research that achieved this same end. Several faculty members have not been able to do so due to the difficulty they have identifying or accessing materials, and they then must substitute perspectives presented in scholarly materials produced in North America or Europe. Developing meaningful services and research support requires a strategic approach to these populations and pursuing ways to resolve these challenges.


This document will continue to be enhanced and updated. Last Update: October, 2020