Yongusil 49: Korean Nexus at the University of Central Lancashire
Higher education institutions across the United Kingdom seem presently to be wading through a surplus and surfeit of Confucius Institutes and other various manifestations of what is charitably termed PRC/CCP “soft power.” Given this situation, it strikes one as extraordinary that, in spite of the strength of the Republic of Korea’s economy and global reach in recent years and the level of media and popular interest in Pyongyang’s latest shenanigans, as well as the effort and focus of both the Korea Foundation and the Academy of Korean Studies, there were still only two university level institutions in this country where the interested and able could undertake a Korean Studies or Korean degree. The esteemed and renowned centers of excellence that are the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and the University of Sheffield, however, have now been joined by an ambitious institution from the post-1992 stable, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) in Preston.
Making an extraordinary financial and resource commitment, UCLAN has supported Professor Hazel Smith (most recently of Cranfield University), in the visualization and creation of a brand new International Institute of Korean Studies within the University’s School of Languages, Literatures and International Studies. Not only will this Institute for Korean Studies, dubbed IKSU, provide undergraduate level degrees in Asia Pacific Studies and Korean, but it also has ambitions to provide Masters level courses in North Korean Studies. In offering this option, UCLAN aims to be unique amongst world institutions outside of South Korea, as well as offering Doctoral level supervision.
IKSU and Smith announced their presence in Preston on October 16-17 with a major Korean Security Conference, bringing together scholars, diplomatic and governmental actors, experienced practitioners and journalists to present work and engage in extensive discussion on matters pertaining to North and South Korea as well as wider elements of the regional security framework. It was a groundbreaking event, not just in its location (and of being the official launch of the IKSU), but also in its ambition to bring together participants from across both the physical or geographic and the political and conceptual world.