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Harvard’s director of Korea Institute seeks equality

Soon after Kim Sun-joo began her term as director of Harvard University’s Korea Institute, she was on a plane to South Korea to attend a conference on Korean studies organized by the Korea Foundation.

On Monday she met with The Korea Herald to discuss her new role as Harvard Korea Institute’s first woman director.
Professor Kim Sun Joo of Harvard University (Xing Lin/The Korea Herald)
Professor Kim Sun Joo of Harvard University (Xing Lin/The Korea Herald)

“Despite general improvement of gender equality, gender inequality and discrimination in leadership positions in all fields, especially academia, is still a critical social issue in most societies,” she explained.

“Korea is not an exception and I am hoping that I will be helpful in realizing gender equality in Korea and Korean academia.”

A native of Korea, Kim received her BA in history from Yonsei University and her MA and Ph.D. in Korean history from the University of Washington.

In 2001, she joined Harvard University’s Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations as an Assistant Professor of Korean History and in 2008 was promoted to full professorship with tenure, a feat achieved by few junior Harvard scholars.

This school year, as well as teaching Korean history at Harvard, Kim will collaborate with other scholars on projects to promote Korean studies as director of the institute.

“The Korea Institute has many ongoing projects,” Kim said, explaining that the Early Korea Project, focusing on early Korean history and archaeology, is currently the biggest venture. Started four years ago, she said feedback has been good.

The institute’s other projects include Azalea, an annual publication focusing on Korean literature, and closed workshops that provide forums for Korean scholars on contemporary Korean history.

“For these workshops, the Korea Institute works to bring in scholars in the field of Korean studies not only from America but from Korea as well,” said Kim.

Kim hopes to advance underdeveloped areas in the field.

“I will continue to support existing projects and programs,” said Kim, “but additionally, I plan to further develop the field of Korean art by offering a course on Korean art history during spring of 2012 and by hosting a workshop.”

Compared to Chinese and Japanese studies, Korean studies is relatively small in most countries. But interest is gaining momentum.

“Over the years the field of Korean studies has grown a lot,” Kim said.

By Xing Lin (Intern reporter) (xinglin.xl@gmail.com)
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