SKKU-Student Voices from the SKKU Program

Student Voices from the Inter-University Center (IUC) for Korean Language Studies at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU).

This program is for advanced academic Korean language training.

Students have benefited enormously from the SKKU Program. RSEA students, in particular, may benefit their research as a step toward pursuing a PhD in the field of Korean Studies, Below are some former Harvard graduate student voices from the SKKU Program.

Joa Alexander, A.M. in RSEA Program, 2019- Attended SKKU, Summer 2018 as a G1, RSEA Program candidate

Joa Alexander

I would first and foremost like to thank the Korea Institute for its generous support in helping students like myself achieve their language education and research goals. This summer, I had the opportunity to study Korean at the Inter-University Center for Korean Language Studies at Sungkyunkwan University (IUC) in Seoul, South Korea.

An intensive, six-week program, IUC’s summer course provides its students—who range from master’s and doctoral students to professionals conducting Korea-related research—with advanced language training in reading, writing, listening, and speaking Korean. In-class instruction and assignments masterfully integrated use, and subsequent development, of these skills. A typical weekly assignment, for example, would include reading newspaper articles on a major current affairs issue. We learned not only how to identify and summarize key points from such readings, but also how to discuss and understand significant issues that were playing out in contemporary Korean society.

Meanwhile, targeted training in auditory comprehension involved listening to Korean university lectures and writing detailed reports on their content. Because we were able to select lectures of our choice, I found this exercise helpful for primarily two reasons. First, I could identify lectures whose content might be useful for better understanding or putting into context my research interests. And second, I could compare discourse or instruction on such topics to that taking place in the United States, a process that has allowed for new ways of thinking about my research and Korean history more generally.

Other unique features of the program included training in hanja, exposure to various literary styles, a trip to a local Buddhist temple, and special guest lectures tailored to students’ interests. Specifically, we heard from Professor Hyunjoo Jung of Seoul National University, who spoke on South Korea’s multicultural policies, and Professor Jungnae Park of the Northeast Asian History Foundation, who discussed Japan’s comfort women.

But perhaps the most salient feature of the program was the importance it placed on helping students to pursue and develop their research interests. While this was possible through the lectures previously mentioned, it was also possible through readings directly related to one’s chosen research topic. Each week, we had the opportunity to select a journal article, book, or other work to read and discuss one-on-one with an instructor. We would then present our findings to classmates, all the while receiving constructive feedback in a process that allowed us to hone our communication and presentation skills. This work culminated in a final written report and presentation for an audience made up of fellow classmates as well as other faculty and students at Sungkyunkwan University.

Finally, being in Korea afforded me other opportunities to conduct research and obtain leads that might not otherwise have been possible. In addition to visiting archives, such as the National Assembly Library, I was able to speak with individuals in active leadership roles within their communities. Some of these informal conversations have prompted me to explore new approaches to my research—which focuses on social welfare and policy generally, orphanages specifically, in modern Korean history—and have led me to new sources for further study.

I would once again like to express my gratitude to the Korea Institute for its support. My experience in Korea has ultimately enabled me to feel more comfortable conducting research in Korean, and has provided me with a set of tools that I look forward to utilizing for my studies this year and beyond.


Sungik Yang, Attended the SKKU Program, Attended SKKU, Summer 2017 as a G2, RSEA A.M. Program candidate

Currently a PhD candidate in EALC

Sungik Yang

Thanks to the Korea Institute’s generous support, I was able to attend the summer program of the Inter-University Center for Korean Language Studies at Sungkyunkwan University (IUC). This program, which was developed with graduate-level academics and professionals in mind, allowed me to spend my summer focusing on developing my academic Korean ability in preparation for future research.

While relatively short at six weeks, IUC was no less intensive and demanding than other summer language programs. Classes included those on academic writing, advanced grammar and expressions, literature, hanja, and current events. We also went out on a short excursion to a historical site: a Buddhist temple called Kilsangsa. In addition to the aforementioned classes, students were expected to present weekly on a research topic they were pursuing for the summer, as well as meeting with an instructor for individual tutoring regarding academic articles the students were reading, culminating in a final presentation that summarized the previous weeks’ research.

Indeed, one of the great virtues of the program was its emphasis on cultivating each student’s own particular research topics. While as an incoming first year Ph.D. student I am still a long ways away from even starting a dissertation, the weekly presentations and reading sessions allowed me to explore the existing literature on potential areas for future research. As such, not only did I have the opportunity to read and present on academic papers written in Korean, I now have a much better sense of what I might pursue for my research.

Another highlight of the program were the special lectures given by Korean scholars whom IUC invited upon recommendation by the students. In the first lecture, Professor Kwon Boduerae gave a talk that proposed a different framework for interpreting the March First Movement by focusing on the concept of the immediate. In the second lecture, Professor Park Chan-Seung examined statistics relating to the colonial period and argued for the need to acknowledge the duality of colonial society in Korea, a framework that showed how the fruits of modernity were unequally shared between the colonizer and the colonized.

In sum, due to my participation in the IUC summer program, I have become much more comfortable reading about and discussing academic topics in Korean. I strongly encourage any other scholars who wish to take a summer Korean language course to apply there.


Yung Hian Ng, Attended SKKU Program, Attended SKKU, Summer 2016, as a G1 RSEA Program candidate

Yung Hian Ng

Yung Hian Ng Group Photo

The Korea Institute Graduate Summer Language Study Grant provided me with a precious opportunity to enroll in the academic Korean language program at the recently established Inter-University Center for Korean Language Studies at Sungkyunkwan University. The program targets students who have completed level six of regular language institutes in Korea or equivalent, and aims to provide further studies to build academic vocabulary, develop presentation skills and enhance writing abilities. The content-based instruction culminates in a final presentation at the end of the semester where students would present their own research conducted over the course of the semester.

Although six weeks might appear to be short, it was a fruitful experience in many ways. There were the usual classes on grammar and vocabulary, but sessions on discussing recent news and the weekly presentations on our research offered constant practice and application of academic or technical vocabulary encountered in the course of our research or in class. The course structure allows flexibility and instructors always try to link class material with our research topics. As such, I was able to make use of the program to also consolidate my findings for the purpose of my M.A. thesis.

The program also offered many opportunities to meet with academics in Korea. Having classmates in working in related fields was a definite plus as we exchanged opinions on various topics on top of our research interests. We were also, on many occasions, able to interact with the special lecturers invited by the program, as well as other scholars and graduate students attending the talks. I also made use of my time in Seoul to attend other forums and met with other professors and academics in the field.

I am extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to be part of the IUC Korea program, which came at a time when I was stuck in a bottleneck in terms of Korean language studies. I am now more confident in communicating about academic topics in Korean, and I believe the relationships I have forged here will be important for bridging Korean and Western scholarship in future.


For more information and the application process for the Inter-University Center (IUC) for Korean Language Studies at Sungkyunkwan University for advanced academic Korean language training, please see the SKKU webpage.

Please also see the KI Graduate Summer Study Language Grants page. You will need to apply to both the SKKU Program directly, as well as, for graduate language funding from the KI.