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10 UCLA Koreanist PhDs Land Jobs in Field

Ten recent Korean studies PhDs will take up research and teaching jobs in 2006–07.

Kevin Matthews Email KevinMatthews

The UCLA Center for Korean Studies has seen more of its recent PhD graduates find full-time jobs in research and teaching in 2006 than in the three previous years combined. Ten UCLA-trained Koreanists from a variety of humanities and social science disciplines have secured appointments in 2006, compared with nine for all of 2002–05. Seven of the newly minted PhDs in history, literature, and film studies this year found tenure-track appointments at U.S. or Korean institutions.

Prospects for work in Korean studies have been on the rise in recent years, as more U.S. colleges and universities look to round out East Asian programs or, at smaller institutions, to extend coverage beyond the languages and histories of China and Japan. So some of the graduates are filling academic positions that have just been created.

For example, history graduate Jennifer Jung-Kim will be the first faculty member at Smith College to hold a tenure-track position set aside for a Koreanist, even though that Massachusetts liberal arts school already has a department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and offers courses on Korea. Jung-Kim studies changing notions of gender in Korea during the Japanese colonial period (1910–45). Another historian, Todd Henry, whose dissertation looked at interactions between Korea and Japan, is taking up a newly created tenure-track post at Colorado State University that was added as part of efforts to "internationalize" the curriculum on that campus.

According to Henry, UCLA students succeed in part by getting along and enjoying themselves, in contrast to the "cut-throat" students he's heard about at rival universities. Several recent PhDs contacted for this article mentioned the overall strength of the faculty not only in Korean studies but in East Asian studies more broadly—a crucial consideration for students taking comparative approaches in their dissertations. UCLA is known for its coverage of Korean religious traditions, including Christianity, and literary traditions, the latter strength owing partly to the presence of Professor Peter H. Lee.

In recent years, UCLA Korean studies PhDs have found permanent, full-time research and teaching jobs at Columbia, Rutgers, Dartmouth, UC-San Diego, and UC-Irvine in the United States, and at a range of institutions in South Korea.

CKS presides over the largest Korean studies program in North America, with more than 2,500 undergraduates taking courses on Korea each year and more than 50 graduate students engaged in study and research related to Korea. In the United States, only the Korean studies program at the University of Hawaii employs more faculty members.

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