Korea’s top library shifts publishing focus abroad

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Korea’s top library shifts publishing focus abroad


Countries often seek to promote their culture using publications, so it was a natural step for the National Library of Korea to invite 25 librarians from overseas universities and research organizations to a workshop on Korean studies.
While China and Japan continually promote themselves through academic publications, the Korean government has been more cautious about networking with overseas institutions. In contrast, the Japan Foundation has been hosting regular workshops for librarians involved with Japanese studies since 1996.
During a weeklong workshop that runs through Sunday, participants will be shown how to use Internet resources and Korean databases related to their profession, as well as given access to old official documents.
The history of Korean collections in most North American libraries is quite short.
The Unites States Library of Congress’ Chinese and Japanese collections date back to 1800 and 1907, respectively. Its collection of Korean language materials only began to be compiled in the 1950s and comprises 240,000 contemporary works. Young-ki Lee, a senior cataloging specialist at the library, says the library is currently seeking early official government documents on the construction of the South Manchurian Railway.
Currently, the Asami Library at the University of California at Berkeley has the largest collection of ancient Korean documents, with 4,000 volumes of classical Korean imprints, including Haedong Kayo, the manuscript of an early eighteenth-century Korean anthology and Korean woodblock prints from the Joseon Dynasty.
William B. McCloy, an assistant librarian for East Asian Law at the University of Washington, said most of the university’s Korean resources are used for comparative research.
The East Asia Library at Stanford University holds over 520,000 volumes in the social sciences and humanities for all historical periods including Korean.
Resources stacked in most U.S. libraries are donated by Korean immigrants. Others, including a substantial amount of periodicals, are updated in exchange with academic and research institutions like the Korea Foundation, who coorganized the workshop.
Mikyung Kang, a Korean studies librarian at Stanford, says research topics in Korean studies goes through phases.
“A lot of the Korean collections were focused on classical subjects in the past,” she says. “Now, the trend is becoming increasingly contemporary, with people looking at hanryu [the Korean wave] and films.”

by Park Soo-mee
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