According to the Asia and the Pacific Society, North Korean studies departments are quickly disappearing from tertiary educational institutions in South Korea.

Last February, students from Korea University gathered in Seoul to protest just that. The day after Valentine’s Day, these students protested downtown in order to alert the South Korean government of the termination of their Department of North Koreanology.

One month later, in March, the Department of North Koreanology was transferred from its independent holding in the College of Humanities and was no longer offered as an undergraduate major. The program has since been merged with a new major. This new major offers taught courses in embracing unification, diplomacy, and national security. Korea University makes the claim that merging the Department of North Koreanology with that of a political science and diplomacy major helps protect the unique identity of the subject. Moreover, this merger allows for the subject to withstand the harsh realities of finding employment for students post-graduation.

Korea University is not the only tertiary institution plagued with such choices. At the start of the 2000s, only 6 universities offered standalone departments focused on North Korean studies. Now in 2016, only 2 universities offer Departments of North Korean studies. Myongji University in Seoul combined its North Korea studies program with the Department of Political Science ad Diplomacy in 2010.

Issues such as this make opportunities with the Ministry of Unification necessary and unique. Offering students in South Korea the chance to study, engage, produce, and publish information about a much needed topic is exactly what is missing. The Ministry of Unification fills that void for students curious and interested in learning and doing more about Korean unification.

Kychele Boone

 

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