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Why Vienna?

Korean Studies at the University of Vienna offer the only fully established course in Korean Studies within the borders of Austria (some Korean-language courses are also offered regularly at the universities of Salzburg and Innsbruck). And since there is no fully established Korean Studies course in Bavaria and in Switzerland, we may say that Tübingen and Vienna are, as of now, the only two places in the southern hemisphere of the German speaking world where a full-fledged program in Korean Studies exists.

Moreover, since Vienna has been, until less than 100 years ago, the capital of the former Habsburg monarchy (the Austrian, then Austrian-Hungarian, monarchy), Vienna is still considered as one of the quintessential metropolitan cities in Europe, attracting like a magnet, even today, many gifted people from all the countries that belonged to the multinational empire. As long as the language barrier can be overcome, many students from Central and Eastern Europe would still choose Vienna as their favourite place to study if they were given the opportunity and the means.

Korean Studies in Vienna serve already as a center that radiates beyond the borders of Austria into Central and Eastern Europe. The CEEPUS(Central European Exchange Program for University Studies)-network “Korean Studies in Central and Eastern Europe” that is coordinated by Andreas Schirmer and our involvement in the Central and East European Society of Koreanology (Rainer Dormels is president of CEESOK) testify to this.


Korean Studies in Vienna: History

Korean Studies in Vienna look back at, comparatively, already quite a long history. Since 1964 courses in Korean language and lectures on Korea-related subjects were offered on a regular basis. One of the first lecturers was Kwang-kyu Lee [Yi Kwang-gyu], who earned a PhD at the University of Vienna with a thesis on Mongolian marriage rites and became, after his return to Korea, a leading scholar of Korean ethnology and anthropology. In 1965 Korean Studies became firmly institutionalized as a section of the newly founded Department for Japanese Studies. In the late 90s, despite being a mere section, Korean Studies in Vienna was able to offer Korean language courses and various lectures and seminars to an extent that did not fall short of what was offered at full departments in Germany. The section hosted also a number guest-professors from Korea, among them famous Korean poet Kim Kwang-Kyu. This development was mostly due to the joint efforts of Sang-Kyong Lee, long-serving director of the section till his retirement in 2000, and Sepp Linhart, head of the Department for Japanese (and Korean) Studies. Providing various support, the Korea Foundation made a very substantial contribution to all this positive development.

When in 2000 an Institute of East Asian Studies was founded at Vienna University, Korean Studies were recognized as of equal standing with the two other constituents of the merger, the former Departments for Chinese and Japanese Studies.

In 2003 Rainer Dormels was appointed first professor of Korean Studies in Vienna. The full professorship was bestowed in April 2005. 40 years after the first Korean language classes had been offered it finally became possible to major in Korean Studies at the University of Vienna. In 2008 an official curriculum for Korean Studies was approved that further ensures the standing of Korean Studies as fully established and emancipated section of the Institute for East Asian Studies. It is also possible to write doctoral and post-doctoral thesis (Habilitation) in the field of Korean Studies at the University of Vienna.

 

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Universität Wien
Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften Koreanologie

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