For almost two decades, the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC) produced outstanding work in Korean affairs but lacked a separate program for Korean studies; by the turn of the millennium, however, it was clear that more attention and resources needed to be devoted to Korea. Between 1960 and 1990, capitalist South Korea had risen from the devastation of the Korean War to produce an economic “miracle on the Han River,” followed soon by full democratization. In the process, it became a global model of development. Meanwhile, North Korea was pursuing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles while maintaining one of the world’s last Stalinist systems, even outlasting the Soviet Union itself despite a devastating famine in the mid-1990s, and the regime’s threats presented a major concern to policymakers. Together, the two Korean states with radically different systems, competing for hegemony on the divided Korean Peninsula, constituted an unparalleled “natural experiment” for social scientists.
Since 2001 when Gi-Wook Shin was invited to found a program within Shorenstein APARC, the Stanford Korean Studies Program (KSP) has developed into a world-renowned center offering impactful programs addressing current, policy-relevant issues and events. KSP sponsors conferences and workshops that bring together leading Korea scholars and policymakers for meaningful dialogue. Special events afford the general public the opportunity to engage with distinguished practitioners as well as emerging scholars. KSP also supports fellowships, collaborates with a broad range of visiting scholars, publishes award-winning books and reports, and offers commentary to leading media.
Amassing talent to create a premier program
From its one-person beginning a decade ago, KSP now has faculty members in sociology, history, and literature, with two more appointments pending. In addition, KSP has two full-time staff members and a research assistant. A Korean language lecturer and a Korean Studies librarian support program activities. KSP taps into the rich array of Stanford-based faculty and senior fellows who conduct policy-related research on Korea within FSI-affiliated centers and programs, and at the neighboring Hoover Institution.
KSP has sponsored collaborative research projects on a range of Korea-related subjects. The South Korean National Assembly Project considered the generational change under way in South Korea’s government and its political and ideological implications, specifically how such changes affect Assembly votes—and Korean policy—on major issues. Other projects focus on mass media and U.S.-Korea relations, including the ROK-U.S. West Coast Strategic Forum, the Korean experience of historical injustice and reconciliation, and a book series on Korean democratization sponsored by the Academy of Korean Studies. Findings from such groundbreaking projects are regularly presented at KSP seminars and conferences, and published as books and journal articles.
A next generation of scholars
KSP is devoted to training the next generation of Korea scholars by offering courses on Korea through various academic departments, working closely with the Center for East Asian Studies, which offers an MA in East Asian studies with a specialty in Korea. A writing prize in Korean studies was created in 2012, and KSP co-sponsors a Korea internship program and convenes popular overseas seminars in Seoul, enabling Stanford undergraduates to experience Korean politics, history, and culture firsthand. In collaboration with the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education, Stanford KSP is expanding opportunities for high school students to take online courses on Korea and for U.S. secondary school teachers to bring Korean studies into their curricula.
Each year, KSP offers outstanding opportunities for fellowships and visiting scholars from Korea and elsewhere. With generous fellowship support from the Pantech Group and the Koret Foundation, KSP has hosted over 100 alumni, including two former South Korean foreign ministers, former senior officials from the United States, South Korea, and China, and leading Korea scholars and experts. These visiting scholars participate intensively in KSP research, educational, and outreach programs, and continue their association with the program after leaving Stanford through an active alumni association.
John Everard, former British ambassador to Pyongyang and a Pantech Fellow, speaks on North Korea at the annual Koret Conference, part of the 2011 celebration of Stanford KSP’s tenth anniversary. (Credit: Rod Searcey)
Students from Seoul’s Hana Academy perform traditional Korean music for participants of the Hana-Stanford Conference on Korea. (Credit: Rod Searcey)