Mission & History
The Center for Korean Studies (CKS) is a unit of the Institute of East Asian Studies at UC Berkeley. The Center is one of the nation's most active academic centers for the study of Korean humanities and social sciences. Our goal is to use the academic resources of the University of California to promote broader understanding of Korea.
Originally part of a combined Center for Japanese and Korean Studies, an independent Center for Korean Studies was established in 1979 in recognition of Korea's growing importance in world affairs. Today, the Center sponsors academic colloquia, conferences, seminars, and other events while building ties between institutions of higher learning, research institutes, and governmental and business organizations in Korea and the United States.
The Center also supports scholars conducting research on Korea through its Visiting Scholar Program. Distinguished scholars and intellectuals, including individuals from public service and NGOs in addition to faculty members from universities, visit Berkeley and contribute to the intellectual life of the Institute and the Center. Major financial support from the Academy of Korean Studies and Samsung helps to support visiting scholars, lecturers, student fellowships, faculty research, and publications.
Message from the C.K. Cho Faculty Chair
Welcome! The Center for Korean Studies at UC Berkeley serves as a forum for scholars, students, and community members to promote the dialogue and exchange of ideas, perspectives, and stories about Korea. South Korea's meteoric ascent on the global stage in recent years is evident in the visibility and popularity of its cultural productions. Yet behind this glittering success lies a series of equally compelling and drastic transformations in the modern era, which have shaped, refashioned, and challenged current understandings of South Korean society, culture, and its people. Similarly, the ongoing division of the Korean peninsula underscores the ways in which global events have indelibly shaped Korea’s contemporary reality—that attempts at comprehending Korea cannot be limited to national borders. While the dynastic histories of the pre-modern era may offer a sense of tradition and continuity, new scholarship has illuminated the complexity and diversity of Korea's past experiences anew. The boundaries of social norms, cultural conventions, communicative patterns, and ethical values have shifted repeatedly in modern times. While Korea may have solidified its coordinates within the imaginary geography of the world, the mapping of its manifold stories demands careful attention to the intricacies of its developments and reflective appraisal of the findings. Be it personal, collective, diasporic, transnational, interdisciplinary, or spatial, the evolving narratives of Korea continue to inspire us at the Center for Korean Studies. It is our honor to partake in and support these efforts to expand and deepen a multitude of understandings on Korea.
Every semester CKS hosts a series of colloquia featuring different guest speakers from around the country and the world. Speakers present their recent research and wrap up with a Q&A. There are typically 1-2 colloquia hosted by the Center per month while classes are in session, and they are typically held on Thursday evenings from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm in the IEAS Conference Room. The colloquia series is free and open to the public.
CKS holds 1 to 2 conferences per year, depending on availability of funding. Anywhere from 10 to 20 speakers travel from around the country and the world to present their most recent research on a central theme. Conferences typically last 1-3 days on average and are usually hosted from Thursday to Saturday. The venues for conferences vary depending on the number of speakers and the needs of the particular conference. Conferences are usually free and open to the public.
CKS occaisionally hosts workshops on various topics for groups of visiting faculty and graduate students to present and develop papers that are currently in progress and not yet published, or published works that are now being expanded upon. Workshops typically include 5-10 participants and sometimes result in CKS affiliated publications. Workshops are typically 1-2 days long and usually hosted in the IEAS Conference Room. Some workshops are open only to participants and others are extended to be open to the public.
Graduate Student Seminar
Depending on the availability of the Faculty Chair, CKS sometimes offers a Graduate Student Seminar for current UC Berkeley Graduate Students with research focusing on Korean Studies. The seminar is personally hosted by the Chair and meets once every two weeks during the semester in the IEAS Seminar Room. The exact schedule is usually tailored according to the schedules of the participating students. Seminar participants are expected to workshop their research papers and present on their progress at least once during the semester. Participants also have the opportunity to meet in a more intimate setting with visiting speakers from the Colloquia Series.
Hong Yung Lee Book Award in Korean Studies
In honor of the late Prof. Hong Yung Lee, and with the generous support and devoted efforts of his family, CKS established the Hong Yung Lee Book Award in Korean Studies in 2022. This annual award acknowledges books (and authors) that make significant contributions to the field of Korean Studies. The competition is flexible in regards to academic discipline, and encompasses not only the conventional areas of Korean Studies (i.e., humanities, arts and media, and social sciences) but also Korean Studies texts that engage the Korean diaspora and/or comparative approaches. $10,000 is awarded each year to the author(s) whose nonfiction English-language academic monograph demonstrates outstanding scholarly merit, research prowess, and methodological innovation. More information about the award can be found on the Hong Yung Lee Book Award page.
Korean Translation Program
This annual program brought together a small group of students from UC Berkeley, Seoul National University, and University of British Columbia each year to collaborate with a published Korean author or poet and produce translations of the author's work. Students are joined by faculty mentors from all three universities and come together for several days of intensive translation work during the Spring semester before presenting their final translations. Dependent on funding, a broader conference including a book signing and meet & greet with the author sometimes followed the end of the workshop and was free and open to the public.
Daesan-Berkeley Writer in Residence
With generous support from the Daesan Foundation in Korea, the Center for Korean Studies previously invited a visiting Korean writer to campus for six months each year. This program is currently on hiatus. Visit the Writer in Residence Program Page for more information.