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Korean Studies Abroad
Korean Studies in Vietnam

Le Quang Thiem
Professor,Vietnam National University, Hanoi
lqthiem@yahoo.com

Historical Background
The cultural relationship between Korea and Vietnam goes back to the 16th and 17th centuries, when envoys from the two countries met in Beijing and communicated through poetry. Notable among those envoys were Yi Su-gwang from Korea and Phung Khac Khoan from Vietnam. In addition, an early-20th-century Vietnamese history textbook examines ?he status of the Korean people, who lost their country.?The textbook was once used at Dongkinhnghiathuc, an academy founded by Vietnamese independence activist Phan Boi Chau at the end of the 19th century to achieve independence from French rule through education.
Korea and Vietnam gained independence from Japan and France, respectively, after the end of the Second World War, but their domestic situations were chaotic. Korea was devastated by the Korean War, Vietnam by the Indochina War, and each was divided into North and South. Cultural exchange between Korea and Vietnam under such circumstances was inconceivable. Although many young people from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) started to study in North Korea at the end of the 1960s, there was no Korean language institution either in North or South Vietnam. There was no institution for Korean Studies, either, before 1975; Northeast Asian specialists or researchers at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and universities were in charge of Korea-related issues.
Even after the unification of Vietnam, no institution was solely responsible for Korean Studies, but Korea was one of the ?our Dragons?of Asia. Serious research on the country therefore started in accordance with the government? multilateral, open-door foreign policy. It must be pointed out, however, that Korean Studies research in those days was conducted not in Korean but mainly in other languages such as English. Korean Studies can truly be said to have started in Vietnam in 1993, the year after (South) Korea and Vietnam established diplomatic ties.

Korean Studies Research
Korean Studies and research institutions were established in 1992. Professors of international relations, East Asian literature and history formed Korean Studies research groups at Vietnam National University, Hanoi, and Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh. The Foreign Affairs Ministry? Northeast Asia Bureau and the Institute for International Relations also began research on Korea using the Korean language.
In December 1992, Vietnam National University, Hanoi, established a Center for Korean Studies, which integrates research and other projects originating from various institutions. Despite many difficulties, the center organized a number of conferences and seminars between 1994 and 1998. The National Center for Social Sciences and Humanities (now the Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences) established a separate Korean Studies center in 1998; it now conducts seminars, translates books, and is expected to play a key role in Northeast Asian research.



Korean Language Education and Korean Studies
Korean language education in Vietnam started when the Faculty of Literature at the National University of Hanoi (now the University of Social Sciences and Humanities within Vietnam National University, Hanoi) offered its first Korean course in September 1993. The teaching of Chinese studies, Japanese studies and Korean Studies began in October 1994 when the university? Faculty of Oriental Studies was established, and the faculty now administers all Korean courses at the institution. In 1995, the University of Social Sciences and Humanities at Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh, also introduced a Korean major.
In addition, Hanoi University of Education opened a two-year Korean language program in 1997, upgrading it to a four-year program two years later. The private Ho Chi Minh City University of Foreign Languages and Infor-mation Technology opened its Department of the Korean Language. Korean language courses soon opened at the public Hanoi University of Foreign Studies, as well as private universities in Ho Chi Minh City such as Hong Bang University and Van Lang University. A Center for Korean Studies was established in 1998 at Vietnam National University, Hanoi, and several other organizations were set up to offer short-term language courses to Vietnamese who needed to learn Korean.

Professors and Researchers
When Korean language education began in Vietnam in 1993, the instructors were mainly South Koreans studying in the country and Vietnamese who had studied Korean either in North or South Korea before 1975. Since 1996, however, the Korea International Cooperation Agency has dispatched a number of Korean language instructors to Vietnam. And since 1998, Korean language instructors have also included Korean professors and Vietnamese with advanced degrees from Korean universities.
As a growing number of Vietnamese students choose to major in Korean or study in Korea, more qualified candidates continue to enter the field. By the end of 2005, it is expected that more than 50 percent of all Korean language and Korean Studies instructors at the college level will hold master? degrees from Korean universities.

Textbooks and Research Materials
In the early days of Korean Studies in Vietnam, there were no proper textbooks - instructors had to rely mainly on books brought in by Korean students, or on materials written in English or French. The situation started to improve in 1995, when the Korea Foundation provided appropriate Korean language textbooks and other books on Korea. However, there was still a lack of materials written in Korean.
Since 1998, many textbooks on Korea? language, history and traditional culture have been published in Vietnam, including The Cultures of Vietnam and Korea: Commonalities, Introduction to Korean Culture and Literature and Korean Culture and History. Papers presented at various seminars have also contributed greatly to active research and education in Korean Studies.
Materials provided by the Korean Embassy in Hanoi, the Korean Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, and the Korea Foundation have been very helpful for the development of Korean Studies. In particular, the Korean Embassy and the Korea International Cooperation Agency have made great contributions to the opening of the Korean Studies Library at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities within Vietnam National University, Hanoi. However, Korean Studies textbooks need to be revised and improved continuously, and further effort is needed to develop reference books and research materials.

Content of Korean Programs
Korean Studies in Vietnam usually covers Korean culture and history, the nation? economy and social development, industrial-
ization and modernization, and Vietnamese-Korean cooperation. It also includes academic research on Korean culture, literature, society, history and philosophy. In addition, there are three categories of Korean language programs.
The first type of program is intended to foster Korean Studies experts and Korean language instructors. The two national universities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City offer programs covering almost all fields related to Korea: its language, history, economy, culture, literature, society, law, international relations, business climate, economic development, as well as Korea-Vietnam relations and comparisons of the Korean and Vietnamese cultures. To graduate, students are required to submit dissertations or pass examinations; about 25 to 30 percent choose dissertations. Graduates of these programs are qualified to teach Korean at Korean Studies centers, universities or Korean language education centers.
The second category is concerned mainly with Korean language education, but also includes classes on Korean society, culture and education. Such programs are offered at Hanoi University of Foreign Studies, Hanoi University of Education and private universities.
The third category involves short-term language training at various foreign language centers, which cater to Vietnamese hoping to work in Korea or for Korean companies in Vietnam. Admission to programs in these last two categories is usually less competitive, except at Vietnam National University, Hanoi, and Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City.

Directions for Future Research
Korean Studies and Korean language education in Vietnam need to develop in step with the close political and economic relations between Korea and Vietnam. For this, support for the following is needed:

● Korean programs need to be taught in a more effective way. Many more hours of Korean language instruction are needed, along with better textbooks and audiovisual materials, and a new generation of well-trained teachers.

● To foster this new generation of Korean Studies specialists and language professors, outstanding Vietnamese students and scholars should be sent to Korea for graduate studies.

● More investment is needed in facilities for the Korean language education institutions at the two Vietnam National Universities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

● Textbooks written in Korean need to be translated into Vietnamese for educational use, and financial support is needed in this regard.

● Korean and Vietnamese universities and research institutes need to strengthen cooperation in these areas.





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