UBC’s Korean language program was launched in the late 1980s by the Department of Asian Studies (separate and unrelated to the Centre for Korean Research, which has never been a teaching unit) with the hiring of Professor Donald Baker to teach Korean history and Korean Studies; in 1994 a tenure-track position in Korean language was created with the hiring of Professor Ross King. Since then, the Department has added three additional permanently funded positions in Korean language: a Professor of Teaching position (occupied until 2023 by Insun Lee), and two Lecturer positions (currently occupied by Eurie Shin and Jeonghye Son). Unfortunately, budget constraints have made it difficult in recent years to hire additional instructors to meet the ever-growing demand for Korean from a diverse range of learners.
Professor Donald Baker in the 2011 Korean Studies Workshop at UBC
What’s Wrong with Korean Language Education Overseas
UBC’s Korean Language Program offers four years of undergraduate instruction, ranging from KORN 102 for complete beginners to 400-level courses in Modern Korean Fiction, Advanced Korean Conversation and Composition, Readings in Middle and Early Modern Korean, etc. However, students should be advised that while first- and second-year KORN courses form a relatively seamless sequence for non-heritage learners, there are significant jumps in difficulty from second- to third-year courses and again from third- to fourth-year courses. With a limited complement of teaching staff it is difficult to create a seamless four-year curriculum that caters equally well to non-heritage and heritage learners.
The goals of our program are to provide as solid a grounding in contemporary spoken and written Korean as possible within the constraints of our limited hours of classroom instruction and relatively short semesters, with the understanding that students who are highly motivated to learn Korean to as high a level as possible should take advantage of the excellent opportunities for study abroad at Korean sister institutions in Seoul, in either their third or fourth years (you will never learn Korean to a high level just taking courses at a North American university). Because the Korean Language Program is embedded in a robust Department of Asian Studies with strong programs in Japanese and Chinese, and Major and Minor programs in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese (among others), it also strives to provide the kind of language training relevant to students who want to pursue graduate study in Korean Studies.
UBC Asian Studies Korean Language Webinar
Budget permitting, the Korean Language Program is keen to hire additional Lecturers in Korean and to expand course offerings at the 300 and 400 levels in order to teach courses already on the books but rarely taught, and to also offer new courses—especially content-based courses and courses on new Korean media and popular culture.