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The KF Global Academy Lecture Series

Our cohort of Korea Foundation fellows had the privilege of attending the inaugural Global Academy Lecture series. As a student invested in East Asian pre-modern architectural history, the series’ theme of seeing traditional Korean architecture as a lens through which to peer into Korea’s sociocultural history provided welcome attention toward an often underappreciated episteme.
Recognizing architecture’s value for nation branding initiatives, the series predictably began with Prof. Han Jaesoo’s overview of rhetorical devices surrounding these cultural heritage assets. However, Prof. Yim Seockjae’s lecture merged intellectual history with material cultural history by discussing Gyeongbokgung Palace’s design logic/use relative to neo-Confucian texts, displaying the promise that Korea’s architectural traditions contain for East Asian Studies as a whole. The third lecture saw Prof. Jeong Bonghee revisit architectural features familiar to the initiated, prioritizing ondol systems and yangban residential complexes. The final lecture was Prof. Woo Don-Son’s attempt at injecting hanok into a modernist narrative. Unfortunately, serious discussion of preservation methodology was absent, indicating a lack of nuanced architectural knowledge outside monumental projects. Regardless, the series was an earnest, preliminary exploration of Korean architectural history’s significance.
Korea Foundation initiatives, such as the Global Academy Lecture series, are part of an ongoing evolution in the way Korean institutions engage with the global academic community. I remain grateful for the opportunities that the Foundation provides, but more importantly, I was heartened by the well-attended lectures and the serious questions that fellows shared. By providing these forums and inviting feedback, visiting fellows can explore ideas in a setting that lies somewhere between a public lecture and an academic panel. We are also reminded that raising awareness of Korean Studies is an endeavor that demands dedicated attention toward topics that both engage and challenge scholarly inquiries. I learn something new with every day here at the Korean Language Department at the University of Languages and International Studies at VNU, a large department with considerable influence and vibrant student enrollment. Speaking classes for first- and second-year students emphasize the use of photos and videos, and seeing the students’ passion and interest in learning about Korea is truly inspiring. It was difficult adjusting at first, since I spoke almost no Vietnamese, but the students here have helped me a lot while I continue studying on my own. I intend to do my best to support the students during my time here.

Pablo N. Barrera
PhD Student, Art History
Yale University
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