Joseph Jeon, director of UCI’s Center for Critical Korean Studies.
"These new grants “will help us continue our mission of fostering top-notch research, supporting undergraduate and graduate learning, and connecting UCI to the community around us in Southern California,” says Joseph Jeon, director of UCI’s Center for Critical Korean Studies. Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., Aug. 23, 2021 — The Center for Critical Korean Studies at the University of California, Irvine has received two prestigious grants – one from the Academy of Korean Studies, the other from the Korea Foundation. They provide the UCI unit with more than $1 million for academic and programmatic developments, including a new faculty position.

The Academy of Korean Studies, a division of the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Education, awarded a Core University Grant to the center, furnishing 900 million won (about $800,000) over five years. The funding will support faculty research and undergraduate education, graduate student fellowships, and programming that benefits the campus and community. UCI is one of just two institutions in the U.S. to receive the grant – and one of only seven in the world. This is the second time it’s been awarded to the center; in 2016, the Academy of Korean Studies provided 1 billion won (about $850,000) to launch the unit.

“The AKS grant is crucial to the growth and development of the center,” said director Joseph Jeon. “With the help of the first AKS grant, we were able to establish the center as one of the most vibrant and active centers for Korean studies in the United States. This new grant will help us continue our mission of fostering top-notch research, supporting undergraduate and graduate learning, and connecting UCI to the community around us in Southern California.”

The second grant comes from the Korea Foundation – $300,000 to establish a tenure-track professorship in Korean art history in UCI’s Department of Art History. An international search to fill the faculty position will begin this fall, with the professorship beginning in fall 2022.

“Korean art has recently attracted much global attention due to the exciting and vibrant work being created by Korean artists, but Korean art has a long and storied history,” Jeon said. “The new position in Korean art history will complement existing strengths at UCI in literature, film and cultural studies. It will also help deepen our connections to our community, for whom Korean art is a growing interest.”

“We are grateful to the Academy of Korean Studies and the Korea Foundation for these generous grants in support of the Center for Critical Korean Studies,” said Tyrus Miller, dean of UCI’s School of Humanities, which administers the center. “These grants will help the center further cement UCI’s place as Orange County’s prime destination for Korean scholarship, study and programming that enrich our understanding of Korea’s rich history and vibrant contemporary culture.”

Since its inception, UCI’s Center for Critical Korean Studies has hosted innovative events spanning history, literature and pop culture and supported cross-school and interdisciplinary scholarship. In 2019, its Korean Hip-Hop and New Explorations of Afro-Asian Identity Conference and Afro-Korean Hip-Hop Festival drew hundreds of attendees and earned coverage in the Los Angeles Times. Earlier this year, the unit produced “The Rise of K-Culture,” a webinar series showcasing some of the most prominent figures in Korean cinema, television and pop. The center is currently planning an international conference on contemporary Korean women’s literature and film.

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