On October 14 SNU announced that it will establish a new department to be called the Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations (ALC). The new department will offer four majors: the language and culture of Japan, Southeast Asia, the Middle East (labeled 'West Asia'), and India. Forty students will be admitted to the department annually beginning with spring semester of 2012.
The College of Humanities made the decision to establish the new department in June of 2010. The purpose of this new department is to provide a basis for the study of the four regions in Asia not studied in depth thus far, to counter the current academic bias towards East Asia, and to further SNU’s global ambitions. The new department will not only increase the number of second language courses currently on offer but also include the literature, philosophy, culture, and history of the four regions concerned.
This news attracts the attention not only of prospective SNU students but also of Koreans for at least two reasons: the long awaited establishment of a Japanese language major and the establishment of majors centered on countries known as 'developing countries'.
Students may have wondered why there is no Japanese major at SNU. The only Japanese language course offered at SNU is 'Advanced Japanese' from the Department of Linguistics for near-fluent Japanese speakers with a JLPT Level 1 certificate. And even this course only dates back to 2001, a surprising fact considering Japanese is the most widely spoken second language in Korea after English. Though unofficial, the widespread explanation for this was that "the best university in Japan, the University of Tokyo, doesn’t offer Korean studies so SNU, the best university in Korea, doesn't offer Japanese studies." This hearsay has its roots in the resentment generally felt by the older generation who grew up during the Japanese colonial era. Therefore, the establishment of this department has garnered much attention as it comes to Koreans as a signal of moving away from past resentments and towards a more productive relationship with Japan.
Secondly, the study of ‘developing countries’ has been quite neglected over the years, as SNU generally has tended to focus on the study of ‘developed countries’ of the West. However, with the recent surge of international students, especially from the Philippines, pursuing degrees at SNU and the increased cooperation between Korea and the developing countries of Asia, the need for knowledge of these Asian regions has increased. Whether the increased interest in the study of these regions is due to hallyu, felt most strongly in these areas, or due to private enterprises making entry into the economies of these regions, as the Dean of the College of Humanities BYUN Chang-Ku said, the establishment of this new department will "diversify SNU's academic interests."
As well as signaling the move away from resentments towards Japan regarding the colonial era and the expansion of Korea's academic interests beyond countries of the West which were traditionally common objects of study, the establishment of the Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations is certainly a successful attempt to expand SNU's academic base.
Written by LEE BoYoung, SNU English Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org ?
Reviewed by Eli Park Sorensen, SNU Professor of Liberal Studies, email@example.com
Proofread by Brett Johnson, SNU English Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org