[Korea Beyond Korea] Berlin, Europe's Korean Studies hub, nurtures next
BERLIN -- Right before the winter semester was about to start in Germany, some 10 students gathered in a classroom in southwestern Berlin in September.
The students, all top Korean Studies majors from across Europe, were selected by the Institute of Korean Studies at the Free University of Berlin to partake in the annual Korean Competence Week.
The weeklong workshop was created to foster the region’s next generation of Korean experts, which is an area that lacks greatly in numbers, according to Professor Lee Eun-jeung, director of the FUB’s Graduate School of East Asian Studies.
In recent years, Berlin has developed into a hub for Korean Studies in Europe. Today, the capital of Germany is home to one of the most prestigious Korean Studies programs in the world and is also a centerpiece to Korea’s endeavor to foster a deeper understanding of the country’s culture worldwide.
Next generation of Korean experts
The students attending competence week sat in on a round table discussion, listening carefully to the senior adviser at Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, a Switzerland-based organization dedicated to resolving armed conflicts around the world. The lesson of the day was about Sweden’s role in promoting the peace process on the Korean Peninsula.
The students were expected to share their thoughts in a follow-up discussion session.
“Our ultimate goal is to foster Korean experts, so they could work in Europe’s public sectors and global organizations or become envoys to Korea,” Lee said in an interview with The Korea Herald on Sept. 28 in Berlin.
Lee explained that most European diplomats or envoys to Korea in both the past and the present majored in Chinese or Japanese Studies, making them experts on those countries, but not experts on Korea.
“We’re trying to change that,” she said.
To become experts, students are required to dive into the rigorous process of earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Korean Studies and sometimes pursue a doctorate.