MAY  2004  [ Vol. 13, No. 2 ] Home | Contact Us | Korean | KF Home   

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Korean Studies Abroad
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On the Spot I
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New Staff at the Foundation
Fellow Essay
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Overseas Libraries
Asia Library of the University of Michigan

Tenth member of the Korean Collections Consortium of North America
Yunah Sung
Korean Studies Librarian
The main campus of the University of Michigan is located in Ann Arbor, 30 miles West of Detroit. It was founded in 1817 in Detroit as one of the first public universities in the United States and moved to Ann Arbor in 1837. Today, it remains one of the most distinguished universities in the world and a leader in higher education. The University has more than 51,000 undergraduate and graduate students and 5,600 faculty at its three campuses (Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint).

Long History of Involvement with East Asia
The University’s involvement with East Asian countries can be traced back 130 years to the tenure of Dr. James Burrill Angell, third president of the University. Recognized for his expertise in international affairs, President Angell was called upon to serve as the Ambassador to China and lived in Beijing from 1880 to 1881. Under his great leadership and vision, the University played a major role in expanding opportunities for students from the Pacific-Rim countries. Michigan was the first university in the United States to admit Japanese students in the 1870s and to award a doctoral degree to a Japanese citizen. Since the 1930s, Michigan has offered Chinese and Japanese language courses, East Asian art, and economics courses focusing on Asia. During World War II, the Army established the Far East languages training school at Michigan, which was the largest intensive language training program at that time. The establishment of the Center for Japanese Studies in 1947 and the Center for Chinese Studies in 1961 has further developed teaching and research on East Asia. Michigan eventually became a major center for Asian education with the creation of the centers for the study of Asian languages and cultures.

Korean Studies Program at the University
Korea-related studies at the University have a relatively short history of 20 years, compared to other East Asian Studies at the University, which have developed world-renowned programs. Korean language courses were offered in 1990 and the Korean Studies Program (KSP) was officially founded in 1995 at the International Institute with generous financial support from the Korea Foundation. It has since become an active participant in the academic community at the University. Integral to the program’s success is the group of six core faculty members who teach and conduct research on a variety of important Korea-related topics, including politics, modern history, economic development, religion, Korean film, and language. The KSP supports academic conferences, cultural events such as art exhibitions and film festivals, the development of new courses, a visiting scholar program, and a lecture series.

Asia Library
The Asia Library was established in 1948 and is located at the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library on the central campus in Ann Arbor. The Graduate Library is the University’s primary research collection for the humanities and social sciences and provides various user services, whereas the Asia Library collects and catalogs one of the nation’s foremost collections of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean language resources in all formats. The Graduate Library collection totals approximately 3.5 million volumes, including 10,000 journals and periodical subscriptions, covering the broadest imaginable array of subject specialties. According to the most recent survey, the holdings of the Asia Library consist of 659,406 volumes of books and journals and 75,140 non-books, including micro-films and CD-ROMs, etc.

Korean Collections
The presence of the Korean Studies Association in Ann Arbor was a cornerstone of the birth and development of Korean book collections in the Asia Library. It was organized in September 1982 by a number of Korean graduate students at the University and local Korean community leaders who realized the weakness of Korea-related studies at the University. The Association members decided to collect Korean materials to donate to the Asia Library and launched the “donating one book per person” campaign. Members requested book donations from the Korean Publishers Association and the Korean Consulate General in Chicago. Starting from only 100 Korean books, the collection has steadily increased through the years, thanks to local community leader Sang-Yong Nam, who has made a tremendous effort to strengthen the Korean Collections. In addition to local support, the Korean Collections has received magnanimous contributions from non-local individuals, including: two generous Korean material donations from Prof. Andrew C. Nahm and Prof. Keum Jang-Tae, which propelled the rapid growth of the collections; 2,400 volumes of books and journals in 1996 from Prof. Nahm, who retired from Western Michigan University; and 1,500 books and journals in 2001 from Prof. Keum, who is a professor at Seoul National University.

To satisfy instructional and research needs of the rapidly developing KSP, the Korean Collections began to collect books and other materials on Korea on a large scale with financial support from the University under the direction of the first Korean Studies Librarian, Heaseon Whang, in 2000. The primary collection comprises Korean history, politics, sociology, economics, religion, culture, literature, and language. As of June 2003, the holdings of the Collections number more than15,000 monographs and periodicals. One epoch-making development is that the Collections, in 2003, became the 10th member of the Korean Collections Consortium of North America (KCCNA), which is funded by the Korea Foundation. Assigned specialty subject areas for Michigan are historiography, Koreans in Japan, Korean unification, immigration and emigration, labor relations, human rights and student movement, and the auto industry.

To meet a growing demand for electronic resources, the Collections purchased several large databases containing full text articles from a broad coverage of primary resources on Korean Studies. Full text databases developed by three major Korean database providers (Nuri Media, Korean Studies Inc., and Dongbang Media) contain not only scholarly journal articles, research papers, and reports, but also more than 220 digital databases of dictionaries, encyclopedias, and historical resources. This service has received high marks from users, because it enables users to view and print out a full-text document without visiting a library, and provides access to all the issues of a journal, from the first issue to the most current one.

The Collections has drafted a three-year plan to systemically expand its holdings of Korean research materials, including the collection of comprehensive reference materials, such as dictionaries, bibliographies, and indexes, and the acquisition of fundamental publications in each subject field. In particular, one of the methods to acquire out-of-print publications and rare books is to seek donations from University alumni or any scholars who are looking for a distinguished home for their personal book collections. There is no doubt that the Korean Collections continue to help facilitate groundbreaking scholarship in Korean Studies with the strong commitment and support of the University and the Foundation.

Related websites
University of Michigan (
University of Michigan Libraries (
Asia Library (
Korean Studies Program (
Korean on-line full text databases (

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