University of Sheffield launches Centre for Korean Studies
- The University of Sheffield has officially launched a new Centre for Korean Studies to expand UK-based expertise in Korean language, culture and society
- The Centre is a leading hub for Korean Studies in the UK and demonstrates Sheffield’s position as a world leader in the field
- Korean culture has exploded in popularity in recent years and the region is a key part of the global economy and international relations, however the UK lacks a large body of Korea-focused expertise
- This year marks 140th anniversary of UK diplomatic relations with South Korea and 60th anniversary of East Asian Studies being taught at Sheffield
A new Centre for Korean Studies that will boost the UK’s body of specialists in Korean language, culture and society, has been officially launched by the University of Sheffield.
Funded by the South Korean Ministry of Education, the Centre is a leading hub for Korean Studies in the UK and demonstrates Sheffield’s position as a world leader in the field.
The Centre will strengthen Sheffield’s degree programmes – giving its students access to a broader curriculum, enabling them to develop the knowledge and skills to become experts in all aspects of Korea. It will also add to the University’s research capacity on Korea, at a time when the region is high on the UK and international political agendas.
Interest in Korean popular culture has exploded since the 1990s. The global phenomenon known as Hallyu - or the Korean Wave - has seen a huge rise in the popularity of South Korean food, films, music, TV shows and video games in the UK and globally.
Aside from popular culture, Korea is a key player in international relations and the global economy. This year marks the 140th anniversary of UK diplomatic relations with South Korea and the UK has an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on North Korea. However, despite the Korean Peninsula’s strategic importance, the UK has a limited number of Korea experts.
In 2019, the UK and South Korea negotiated a post-Brexit free trade agreement, and Korea is the UK's 20th largest trading partner. Korean exports to Britain have risen considerably in the last five years, and more UK companies are seeking to enter the Korean market. The two countries are also working on sustainable energy projects, following Korean investment into UK sustainable energy projects worth £260 million by 2030.
The UK and Korea are also strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific region, and both are looking to deepen relations with ASEAN partners - the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Both are ASEAN dialogue members. South Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol is making a state visit to the UK this week (21-23 November), signalling the importance of the UK as a partner state. This increasing engagement and cooperation between the two countries will mean greater demand for UK-based academic, professional, business and scientific expertise that understands the Korean context and the East Asian region more widely.
Dr Sarah Son, Lecturer in Korean Studies at the University of Sheffield, and Director of the new Centre, said: “It has been exciting to watch the growth of Korean Studies in the UK, and it is fantastic to be able to offer undergraduate and postgraduate students a broader curriculum, alongside intensive language training both at Sheffield and with our partner universities in South Korea.
“With deepening economic engagement between the UK and Korea over the last decade, there is an increasing demand for knowledge and skills that will enable partnerships across sectors including the arts, education, sustainable energy and the automotive industry to grow.
“Expertise in the geopolitics of the Korean Peninsula is also increasingly sought after, as the UK is one of only a few countries that has diplomatic relations with both North and South Korea, and both the UK and South Korea are seeking to deepen their engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.”
The University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s most established universities for Korean Studies as well as East Asian Studies more broadly. This year is the 60th anniversary of East Asian Studies at Sheffield and the new Centre will strengthen the University’s capabilities in this area.
The Centre for Korean Studies award is highly prestigious. Each year, the South Korean Ministry of Education awards funding to only a handful of universities globally to set up centres that will help advance the understanding of Korean language and culture.
Dr Son added: “Korean Studies has been taught at Sheffield for almost 45 years. This award recognises Korean Studies at Sheffield as a leading programme internationally, one that has the potential for further growth and development in terms of the breadth of modules offered, and our capacity to produce highly qualified graduates and world-leading research in the field.”
Aside from the launch of the new Centre, the University of Sheffield's Library recently welcomed staff from the National Library of Korea and the Korean Culture Centre to open a new Window on Korea space. The Window on Korea initiative was started in 2007 by the National Library of Korea, with the aim of supporting libraries around the world in bringing Korean history and culture to a wider audience.
In 2021, the University of Sheffield Library agreed to develop a Window on Korea as part of the programme, as a way of celebrating its Korean collection being one of the largest in the UK, and in recognition of the growing interest in Korean Studies. The space features Korean artwork and information panels, and has been designed to be a welcoming, comfortable study area for all library users.
The University’s four flagship institutes bring together our key strengths to tackle global issues, turning interdisciplinary and translational research into real-world solutions.