Peace Corps Volunteers and the Making of Korean Studies in the United States
- PUBLISHED: August 2020
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / Korea, History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 266 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 41 b&w illus.
- SERIES: Center For Korea Studies Publications
- ISBN: 9780295748139
From 1966 through 1981 the Peace Corps sent more than two thousand volunteers to South Korea, to teach English and provide healthcare. A small yet significant number of them returned to the United States and entered academia, forming the core of a second wave of Korean studies scholars. How did their experiences in an impoverished nation still recovering from war influence their intellectual orientation and choice of study—and Korean studies itself?
In this volume, former volunteers who became scholars of the anthropology, history, and literature of Korea reflect on their experiences during the period of military dictatorship, on gender issues, and on how random assignments led to lifelong passion for the country. Two scholars who were not volunteers assess how Peace Corps service affected the development of Korean studies in the United States. Kathleen Stephens, the former US ambassador to the Republic of Korea and herself a former volunteer, contributes an afterword.
Authors & Contributors
Seung-kyung Kim is Korea Foundation Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and director of the Institute for Korean Studies at Indiana University. Michael Robinson taught at the University of Southern California and Indiana University. The other contributors are Don Baker, Edward J. Baker, Donald N. Clark, Carter J. Eckert, Bruce Fulton, Laurel Kendall, Linda Lewis, Edward J. Shultz, Okpyo Moon, Clark W. Sorensen, and Kathleen Stephens.
The book makes for an interesting read in many ways—reflections on transcultural living and how that experience led to career changes and changes in worldview. However, there is one final way in which this book is interesting and useful. It is a collection of essays which are a form of “auto-ethnography.” These observations of cultural adjustment, and American understanding of Korea during the 1960s to the 1980s are an important source of information for future scholars examining American attitudes to East Asia at the end of the twentieth century.- European Journal of Korean Studies
Hugely interesting and significant for understanding the history of Korean studies in the United States. It is not an overstatement to claim that the Peace Corps “made” virtually a whole generation of US Korea scholars. . . . . One of the contributions of this book is to provide internal reflections on just how the Peace Corps experience and the formation of Korean studies—in institutional, intellectual, and political terms—intersected.- Robert Oppenheim, University of Texas at Austin