Greetings! I’ve been teaching Korean Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), as a Visiting Professor since September 2018. I belong to the UCSB Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, where the languages and cultures of China, Japan, and Korea are taught in undergraduate and graduate courses. Compared to the already established Chinese and Japanese Studies courses that are taught by many professors specializing in East Asian languages and cultures, Korean Studies is still in its earlier stages. A Korean language lecturer and I are doing our best to promote Korean Studies at UCSB.
For three quarters of the year, I teach five classes related to Korean popular culture, including films, drama, and Hallyu (the Korean Wave). The classes are titled “Contemporary Korean Cinema,” “Introduction to Popular Korean Melodrama,” “Introduction to Popular Culture in Korean Film and TV Dramas,” “New Korean Wave (Lower Division),” and “New Korean Wave (Upper Division).”
The Korean Studies department at UCSB is not very significant in size but is growing outstandingly thanks to the interest and ardor of students. When I first arrived here, I had a class of 40 students who were interested in Korean culture, and the class atmosphere was somewhat like a family gathering. However, student applications rushed in at the beginning of the 2019 winter semester. We couldn’t receive applications after the first week as our quota was filled so early, and more than a few students had to put their names on the waiting list. In the spring semester of 2020, many students had to wait outside the classroom due to an insufficient number of chairs. Recognizing the ever-growing popularity of Korean Studies, the department has decided to increase the spots available in the “New Korean Wave (Upper Division)” class for juniors and seniors from 40 to 100. If the 2018–2019 school year saw Korean Studies take roots at UCSB, the 2019–2020 school year is seeing it expand.
In 2019, in addition to classes, we began a special event celebrating Seollal (Lunar New Year’s Day) in our efforts to strengthen UCSB’s Korean Studies program. The celebration this year will be attended by 80 students who applied for participation in advance. They’ll have a fun time taking part in K-pop quizzes, playing the traditional Korean hacky sack game of jegichagi, and eating traditional Seollal tteokguk (rice cake soup). The Korean Language lecturer and I are in charge of overall planning and providing food, and Seoul’d Out, UCSB’s K-pop club, will emcee the event. I feel very proud to see student interest in Korean studies and culture help our department secure a solid place at UCSB. I will do my best every day to promote Korean Studies at UCSB with best wishes for its phenomenal growth this year.