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Korean Studies

Molly Des Jardin, Japanese Studies Librarian and Subject Liaison for Korean Studies



Since the establishment of Korean Studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 2000, both the James Joo-Jin Kim Program in Korean Studies and the Korean collection in the Penn Libraries have grown steadily. Today the Kim Program, in conjunction with several academic departments, offers a focused range of academic and research programs in Korean studies, providing academicians and researchers with a multitude of options from which to choose their specializations. The Center for East Asian Studies, an interdisciplinary unit composed of faculty members whose teaching and research focus is on East Asia, initiates, organizes, and coordinates Korean studies course offerings and supports the expansion and enrichment of Korean studies at the University of Pennsylvania. The Choson dynastic history of pre- and early modern Korea from 1300 to 1910 has always been the basic framework of the Korean studies curriculum and research projects. Four major academic subject areas evolve through this basic curricular/research framework: Archaeological and architectural investigations centered on the Koguryo Kingdom, particularly the Koguryo tombs and monasteries; pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Korean history; history of art focused on Korean ceramics and Korean gardens, studied comparatively with those in China and Japan; and pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Korean literature. The curricular content of Korean studies is interdisciplinary and comparative, though the range of comparison is limited geographically to Asia: that is, the majority of Korean Studies courses are taught in comparison with both Japan and Chinese elements. The current Korean collection reflects the interdisciplinary and comparative nature of the academic and research direction that is prevalent today.

Korean Studies permeates other academic programs offered by such departments as History, Economics, History of Art, History and Sociology of Science, Political Science, Anthropology, Psychology, and Sociology. Researchers associated with the University Museum focus on Korean archaeology and early civilization; scholars at the Wharton School concentrate on Korean economics, finance, and commerce; and students at the Lauder Institute endeavor to earn a joint MBA/MA degree in Management and International Studies with a concentration on Korea.


A. Selection

The first priority of the Korean Collections is to acquire the current core materials of the highest academic quality in support of Penn's academic programs with special emphasis on reference works including bibliographies and indexes as well as essential academic journals. The Korean collection focuses on the following subject areas: anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture, history of art, Korean history and civilization and Korean literature encompassing all ages. For certain subject areas, a concurrent acquisition of fullfledged criticism of specific works and corresponding introductory materials applies.

Recommendations and requests from faculty members and students are given serious consideration. Materials bearing direct relevance to the academic programs and research receive the highest priority in purchasing. Each title must meet the following selection criteria: 1) the title is essential to the curricular mission and needs of the Korean Studies faculty; and 2) the title contributes to current collection balance in a subject area. At present the Korean Collection holds more than 7000 volumes of monographs and subscribes to 18 journals. In addition to the Korean Collection at the VanPelt Library, a number of branch libraries within the University Library system maintain materials on Korea in European and Asian languages--most notable of which are the University Museum Library and the Fisher Fine Arts Library.

B. Responsibility for Collection Development

The university's Korean studies faculty and instructors set the direction of the Korean Collections. Faculty and student recommendations and requests are a necessary part of the selection process. The subject liaison librarian for Korean studies balances and coordinates the collections as a whole. The decision to acquire materials rests solely with the librarian.

C. Location

The Korean Collection on the 5th floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center houses monographs and bound journals in Korean. The East Asian Seminar Room collects core reference works and a small number of unbound core academic journals. The Current Periodicals Section on the first floor of VanPelt maintains unbound Korean periodicals of a general nature as well as periodicals on Korean Studies in European languages. The University Museum Library and the Fisher Fine Arts Library hold a number of Korean monographs in anthropology, archaeology, and art/architecture.


  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Art/Architecture
  • Economics
  • History
    • Pre-modern
    • 20th century
    • Contemporary
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Literature
    • Pre-modern
    • 20th century
    • Contemporary


The following categories of materials are excluded from the Korean Collection: ephemeral works, gray literature, textbooks except for some language readers, translations of Western literature into Korean, and works on science in general.


In addition to acquiring materials with library funds, Penn participates in a number of materials donation programs with institutions in Korea. These include the National Library of Korea, National Assembly Library, and Korea Foundation. These provide substantial contributions of monographs in English and Korean, journals, and electronic resource funding.

In order to supplement the holdings at Penn, faculty and students are encouraged to utilize a number of Korean Studies resources located in the middle Atlantic regions. Columbia University in New York, for example, offers extensive pre-modern history collections. Princeton University holds a large number of East Asian academic journals that are commercially unavailable both in the Humanities and in the Social Sciences. The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., accessible within a day's commuting distance, offers the largest collection on East Asian Studies.