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UA department of East Asian Studies expands with new Korean minor

College of Humanities
Young Kim leads a Korean class session at CLP.

The University of Arizona’s Department of East Asian Studies offers a variety of focuses for their majors and minors, including Chinese and Japanese language or culture, and is now expanding to include a minor in Korean.

Korean classes have been available at the UA, but the department has not offered any higher-level courses until now, giving Korea the attention in East Asian Studies it needed, according to Albert Welter, head of the Department of East Asian Studies.

Welter, also the associate director of the School of International Languages, Literatures and Cultures, oversees the new programs and courses offered and expressed that the Korean minor gives them “the recognition and acknowledgement they deserve.”

“Korean popular culture is extremely popular throughout the East Asian region,” Welter said. “We have a lot of students here who are interested in Korea as well.”

The new minor aims to have both a language focus and a cultural focus, and students who want to use Korean as their foundation language for their East Asian studies major can now do so. 

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The interest for Korean classes, through the College of Humanities, has climbed with undergrad students, according to Margaret Camp, assistant professor in the Department of East Asian Studies and undergraduate advisor in the department.

“We have students who are taking Korean and critical languages who kept coming in saying that [they] wanted to use Korean as part of their East Asian Studies major,” Camp said. “That’s why we started talking about bringing the Korean language courses over to our department.”

The College of Humanities noticed an increased interest in the few Korean classes they previously offered, and by moving the study program into the Department of East Asian Studies, they allowed for an increase in courses and staff to come.  

At the end of the 2017 fall semester, the department had 326 students minoring in their programs: 190 in Japanese, 110 in Chinese and 26 in general East Asian Studies, according to Camp. 

The East Asian Studies major and minor will also include a Korean language concentration and a Korean culture concentration instead of just the Japanese and Chinese concentrations, according to Sunyoung Yang, an assistant professor in the Department of East Asian Studies with a focus on Korea.

“I’m the first Korean specialist in our department and have been developing Korean culture courses,” Yang said.

She has been teaching Korean courses for two years at the UA, and many students have come up to her asking about the Korean major and minor. 

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“I have at least seven students who are planning to claim the Korean minor, and if we have a Korean major before they graduate, they want to do that too,” Yang said. 

The College of Humanities offers a Critical Language Program (CLP) that includes Korean language classes. 

About 100 students are in Korean language courses within the College of Humanities, and with that number growing, the Korean program moved into the East Asian Studies department, according to Yang.

Critical Language Program Director Jieun Ryu, has helped coordinate the transition of the Korean classes from CLP to the East Asian Studies department.

“I’ve modified and developed the curriculum of CLP Korean courses to mirror East Asian Studies language course models,” Ryu said. “I hired Korean language teachers to work with me.” 

The transition hopes to bring more diversity to both departments, according to Camp and Ryu, and this movement “will have departmental support to invest more on development specific to Korean language.”

Students can get a language minor in the Department of East Asian Studies with 20 units of language. Other colleges require upper-division courses, but this department doesn’t, according to Camp. 

“It’s special and unique to our department because our languages are so hard that each one is five credits,” Camp said.

Students can also get a cultural minor with 18 units — nine of those being upper-division courses — yet the department doesn’t have many upper division Korean courses, according to Camp. 

The new Korean minor will add those upper-division classes for students, hoping to bring in more instructors and culture to the department. 

“Korean is the third language-studies program that has been really developing and growing in the department,” said Alain-Philippe Durand, dean for the College of Humanities. 

Durand is excited about the new minor and looks forward to the increase in the number of Korean-focused classes offered. 

Camp and Yang both expressed their excitement in the new minor offered to students as well, and stress that for the cultural minor, students don’t need any language background.

“I think we are going to have to start actively promoting it,” Camp said. “We already have allowed seven [students] to declare the brand new minor.”

Yang and Camp have gone around to the different East Asian Studies classes and promoted this new minor to try to get students interested and signed up for the minor.

The new Korean classes are expected to begin in the fall 2018 semester. For more information, visit the East Asian Studies Website.

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