• Interview
  • An Interview with Dr. Ahn Yonson, Professor of Korean Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt

An Interview with Dr. Ahn Yonson, Professor of Korean Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt

In this issue, Prof. Dr. Ahn Yonson of Goethe University Frankfurt speaks on the growing popularity of Korean Studies in Germany, and the mid- to long-term plans for the university’s Korean Studies program.

Would you briefly introduce the Korean Studies program at Goethe University Frankfurt?

Korean Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt has witnessed significant growth in both academic quantity and quality, with the number of students registered and the aggregate research output steadily increasing since its founding in 2007. Within the empirical linguistics BA program, Korean Studies has been offered as a minor since 2007 and a major since 2011. Introduced as a free-standing minor program in 2017, the Korean Studies program now has approximately 160 BA students and 3 PhD candidates in total. An assistant professorship was established in 2010 and was followed by a full professorship in 2014 with financial support from the Korea Foundation, which allowed me to take office as the director of Korean Studies. Currently, the Korean Studies faculty is comprised of one professor, two Korean language lecturers, two research fellows, two administrators, and one or two part-time lecturers.

How popular is Korean Studies with German students today? Also, what distinguishes the Korean Studies program at Goethe University from its competitors?

At the moment, six universities in Germany offer degree programs associated with Korean Studies, and yet another degree program will be introduced next year. In addition to the programs offered at these universities, roughly 10 universities provide Korean language courses. Interest in Korean Studies within Germany has been consistently growing over the years, and today is rapidly increasing.
  Being home to the second largest community of overseas Koreans in Europe, Frankfurt is also the city in which many Korean corporations have their German or European branches and liaison offices. This can facilitate more opportunities for career development and academic cooperation, which can in turn help to further develop the program. Moreover, Goethe’s Korean Studies students have a chance to study abroad at one of six associated Korean universities with airline ticket support through Asiana Airlines’ Asiana Flying Scholarship. Korean Studies also offers KF Global e-School fellowships and TOPIK scholarships for those interested in studying abroad in Korea.
  Students studying Korean Studies in Frankfurt have contributed to promoting Korean culture and Korean studies in the local community by annually organizing Project K—The Korean Film Festival with financial support from the Korean Consulate General in Frankfurt since 2010. Hosting Project K also plays an important role in helping the students experience Korean society and culture while further developing their interest in Korean Studies.

What career paths are open to the program’s graduates in the development of Korea-Germany relations?

Some graduates from the Korean Studies program have gone on to work in Korean public corporations, German or European branches of Korean corporations, or companies in Germany. Some of them prepare to apply for jobs in Korea or continue their study at graduate schools. I believe that these graduates have contributed, to a certain extent, to relations between Germany and South Korea by engaging in interactive activities at the local level.

Do you have any cooperative relations with the KF?

The Korea Foundation sponsored our visiting professorship from 2007 to 2011 in the early stages of our Korean Studies program, and has continued providing five-year support to establish a full professorship since 2014, which has consolidated the establishment and development of the Korean Studies program at Goethe University.

What are your mid- to long-term plans for developing Korean Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt?

Korean Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt will further develop a holistic curriculum with material on modern and contemporary Korea, including North Korea, and focus on developing new methods of education. The program will also enrich its curriculum to broaden students’ understanding of Korean society, economy, culture, and history, and strengthen their Korean language ability. In gaining additional research project funding, the Korean Studies program will also endeavor to foster the next generation of Korean Studies researchers by employing PhD research fellows.
  With generous sponsorship from the Korea Foundation, Goethe University Frankfurt’s Korean Studies program will host the Eighth Conference of the Association of Korean Studies in German-Speaking Countries in November 2018. This conference serves as a platform from which junior and senior scholars, mostly based in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, present their research findings and exchange ideas for potential future collaboration. With the added advantages of its locality and the development of its academic programs, the Korean Studies program at Goethe University endeavors to become the hub of Korean Studies in Europe.