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SNU to open Japanese dept.

Seoul National University, the nation’s most prestigious higher education institution, will open a Japanese department as early as next year, the school said Friday.

According to SNU, the establishment of an East Asian linguistic and civilization faculty passed the dean’s council on Thursday and is awaiting approval from the general council next month.

The plan includes the launch of departments for Asia including Japan and India, as well as Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries.

It will start with Japan and West Asian majors with 10 students each next year.

The department will cover overall humanities studies in the region ranging from language and literature to culture, history and philosophy, the school said. But in the beginning, the focus will be on language, it said.

“There have been criticisms that SNU, the nation’s top university, has been ignorant of Japan and Middle East studies.

The department will look into comprehensive aspects of the region,” said professor Byun Chang-ku, dean of the college of humanities.

The university has been hesitant to do with studies involving Japan. It established the Institute of Japanese Studies in 2004, but no undergraduate student was accepted.

Observers attributed the public’s anti-Japanese sentiment stemming from Japan’s colonial rule of Korea and the lack of a Korean department at Tokyo University, the top university in Japan, as having deterred SNU from opening a Japanese department.

But 17 out of 43 state-funded universities ― including Pusan National University, Chonnam National University and Kangwon National University ― have Japanese-related departments.

“The Japanese Department will enhance our global competitiveness,” Byun said. “It will allow SNU to step outside from the conventional curriculum focusing on U.S.-European states and enter into Asia-centered studies. It will set a balance within the academia,” he added.

By Bae Ji-sook (