University launches International Institute of Korean Studies

13 October 2014

Chris Theobald

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is to officially launch its International Institute of Korean Studies (IKSU) on Friday, 17th October.

 Photo by Shanei-Rochelle Hypolite

The multidisciplinary hub of research, teaching and public policy in the study of contemporary Korea is the first to be located in the North West of England and is only the UK’s third provider of an undergraduate programme in Korean Studies.

Next year the Institute will launch Europe’s first Master’s Degree in North Korean Studies.

The formal launch event will be the culmination of a two-day conference (16th-17thOctober) examining Korean security and the relationship between the North and the South of the country, the last unresolved conflict of the Cold War.

Over 30 of the world’s leading authorities, influencers and commentators on Korea will debate a wide range of security issues ranging from nuclear weapons to food, as well as wider security issues related to East Asia.

The research question to be debated at the conference is: Why is the Korean conflict proving so intractable and what fresh approaches are required?

Delegates offering a fresh insight, to be documented in a future research paper, will arrive from the US, China, South Korea, Russia and Europe.

IKSU is based within UCLan’s School of Language, Literature and International Studies, and brings together the University’s wide research expertise on global Korea in the context of East Asian security; maritime law and conflict in East Asia; Korean language, Korean traditional music; sport; and the society, economics and international politics of North Korea. Over the last two years UCLan has also seen a surge in interest from students wanting to study the Korean language or an aspect related to it. Currently nearly 120 students are enrolled on Korean or Korean-related programmes.

"Our inaugural IKSU conference will act as a catalyst for generating new ideas and fresh approaches to the North Korean conundrum"

Professor Hazel Smith, Director of IKSU, said: “IKSU takes contemporary Korea – North and South – seriously. We will be getting away from the tired old stereotypes to engage in robust, careful research about the politics, economics and society of North Korea. We will also focus on the vibrant culture and economic dynamism that characterises contemporary South Korea, as well as the politics and international dynamics of inter-Korean relations.

“Our inaugural IKSU conference will act as a catalyst for generating new ideas and fresh approaches to the North Korean conundrum. Indeed the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is engaging in some very pro-active diplomacy to talk to outsiders, including a number of those attending our conference. We look forward to hearing some new insights and sharing experiences in what will be a fascinating two days.”

Lord David Alton, Patron of IKSU and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, added: “I am delighted to add my support to the launch and ongoing development of IKSU. I have travelled to both North and South Korea on many occasions and found it to be a place where all those living on the Korean peninsula long for a lasting settlement based on justice, peace, coexistence and mutual respect.

“For the people of those nations, who for 60 years have lived side-by-side and experienced such contrasting fortunes, it may still seem like the impossible dream. By reaching out through mutual understanding and informed research, it is initiatives such as IKSU which can make a real difference.”

In addition to informing UCLan’s popular academic programmes in Korean Studies, IKSU will have many other facets. For example, the University already has a longstanding relationship with Samsung via its product design programme and a secondary aim of the Institute is to encourage more Korean businesses to explore further the entrepreneurial talent that exists throughout the North West.