Online Petition to Support Korean Studies at UIUC
October 31, 2016

Dear Dean of College of Liberal Arts and Science,

We are writing this letter in order to appeal for your support for the strengthening of Korean Studies in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The University of Illinois has had a longstanding relationship with South Korea. The very first Korean student, Hee Kyung Rey, studied medicine at the University of Illinois from 1911 to 1912 before the university separated into three campuses. Since that time, the Korean international population has grown significantly. Over the last two decades, Koreans have often comprised the largest number of international students at the University of Illinois. Today, Korean undergraduates still constitute the second largest undergraduate international student body, not to mention the large population of Korean-American students on campus, and over 1, 000 Korean students are attending the University of Illinois this semester.
Not surprisingly, both the University of Illinois and the twin towns of Urbana and Champaign have been significantly affected by the Korean presence in the religious (particularly Christian) community and also in the commercial sector where there is an increasing number of eateries and Korean-owned commercial establishments. Clearly, there is a growing campus and community awareness of and interest in Korea as a distinct place and culture, supported as well by the popularity of Korean pop culture. Consequently, the number of students taking Korean language courses at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has increased by 40% over the past several years.

Despite the strong presence and rapid growth of Korean population on campus and the popularity of culture in the community, we regret that the Korean Studies program has declined significantly over the past decade. Due to lack of support from the College, the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, which once housed four tenure track faculty members in history, literature, linguistics and anthropology, currently does not have any tenure track faculty to teach content courses in Korean studies, and is thus unable to meet the growing needs and interests of our students. In consequence, UIUC students are deprived of the opportunity to learn about Korean history, literature and culture whereas peer institutions including University of Michigan, Ohio State University, and Indiana University have continuously supported the Korean Studies program, hiring faculty in various fields of Korean studies and providing their students with classes to meet their intellectual passions and curiosities. UIUC, in contrast, has not taken any action to support Korean studies and related research and pedagogy.

Therefore, we ask the College to institutionalize support for the Korean Studies to maintain thoroughness and academic rigor in East Asian Studies. We are eager to see the University of Illinois become a leader in teaching, scholarship, and global reach, where students can choose and learn from a truly diverse curriculum. Only then will UIUC be truly recognized as the leader among public research universities in globalized education.

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