Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Why does Korea matter to the UK?

We talk to Dr Youngmi Kim about the importance of developing our understanding of Korea.

Youngmi Kim in a television studio
Youngmi in the STV studio

In November 2017, colleagues in Asian Studies welcomed Mr Joonkook Hwang, the Republic of Korea’s Ambassador to the UK, to give a public lecture on understanding modern Korea. Here, we talk to Dr Youngmi Kim, who was involved in hosting the ambassador, about the importance of Korean Studies.

“It’s a really timely moment to be talking about developing Korean Studies at the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), because there has been growing interest in Korea, not only in Scotland, but globally.”

“While no universities in Scotland currently offer degree programmes in the area, elsewhere those that do have reported huge increases in student application numbers.”

“At our most recent Open Day, we had several prospective applicants interested in studying Korea here because of growing interest, and also our current courses.”

“These include foundation language courses in Korean - which are always full (30 students at each level) - and some very well received courses on Korea as part of other programmes.”

* This article was published before we introduced three postgraduate programmes in Korean Studies. From September 2019, it has been possible to study an MSc, MSc by Research and a PhD in Korean Studies with us *

Current courses and proposed programmes

“So far, our focus has been dual. We offer language training and courses on contemporary Korea, politics and international relations, both on Korea only and comparatively.”

“Over the coming years, the plan is to develop full programmes, including MSc and MSc by Research programmes in Korean Studies, in collaboration with colleagues in Asian Studies at LLC and the School of Social and Political Science." 

“The programmes would be interdisciplinary, in the sense that they would familiarise students with the culture, politics, economy and history of Korea. We believe this is best done by bringing together staff with different disciplinary backgrounds, from political science and international relations to contemporary arts and history.”

“Again, some courses would look specifically at Korea, whereas others would be comparative, on the basis that what Korea does cannot be understood in isolation from its context and environment. Understanding such context is very important.”

The student experience

“Apart from introducing a new subject, our aim for the Korean Studies programmes is to focus on making the student experience as productive and enjoyable as possible.”

“The interdisciplinary aspect would mean that students interact with, and study alongside, people specialising in other subjects or regions, which I think would be really productive, intellectually.”

“We’ll place great importance on how we teach, and how students learn, by being bold with teaching methods and making sure that these are tailored to the skills our students need in the job market.”

“Lastly, and partly related to this, I am very keen on digital education and the opportunities this allows to both students and staff. I expect online learning to play an important role in the Korean Studies programmes we are developing”.

Thinking comparatively

“In my courses, I seek to highlight the connections between countries and regions to show links and parallel in their experiences. Myanmar and South-East Asia are the other country and region I am very interested in."

“Of course there are some similarities [with Korea], from colonial rule to military dictatorship and a strong history of social contention, but there are several differences too. What I would like my students to get out of my courses is the ability to think comparatively and do comparative research.”

Youngmi has recently been interviewed by STV about North Korean relations, and by the BBC about Myanmar's Rohingya Crisis. She has also spoken at an event on the crisis organised by IsocEd, the University of Edinburgh’s Islamic Society.

Find out more about Youngmi’s teaching and research



Are you interested in Asian Studies at LLC? 

We offer undergraduate programmes in Chinese and Japanese, and several postgraduate programmes, including an MSc in East Asian Relations.

Find out more