Kyujanggak images

Past Exhibition list

Korean Studies, Korea as Seen from Outside
Wednesday October 16, 2013 - Wednesday January 15, 2014
*Closed: Sundays [Reservations required] 

This special exhibition is designed to elucidate Korea, as seen from an outsider’s perspective, by exhibiting foreign scholars’ achievements in Korean studies alongside the contents of the Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies’ collection that relate to essays on travel in Korea. It offers a wonderful opportunity to understand how foreign knowledge of Korea developed from a fragmented understanding into an academic pursuit unto itself, and how the field of Korean Studies was established in international academic circles.  

The exhibition begins with the writings of non-Koreans that aroused a preliminary interest in Korea. In pre-modern times, Korea was a subject of interest and research for neighboring countries, but the interest was not in Korea as an isolated country, but rather as a member of the East Asian cultural sphere. It was only after Korea opened its ports in the late 19th century that a number of travelogues were published in response to the increasing global interest in Korea. This exhibition compares and explores Korea’s history from two perspectives: as it is depicted in writings about Korea and as it is depicted in the materials belonging to Kyujanggak. Though these writings lack academic rigor, they became the foundation for the emergence of Korean Studies as an academic discipline.  

During the Japanese colonial period, the Japanese Government-General of Korea compiled a huge collection of historical materials related to successful colonial rule. Japanese scholars also released a number of research papers. The next part of the exhibition depicts how the colonial authority intended to organize the materials of Kyujanggak and how those scholars employed by the colonial authority developed a distorted basis for Korean studies. Altogether, the exhibited materials demonstrate the limitations of a colonial view of history when introducing the methodologies of modern studies. Interestingly, a range of studies were simultaneously being conducted in other various fields, including language, literature, science, folklore, religion, and art. Examining the Kyujanggak materials that correspond to those research papers will give visitors a sense of how the tradition of observing and archiving culture in the Joseon Dynasty established its value as a subject of academic study. 

Distinguished academic traditions were developed in North America, Europe, Japan, and China through the efforts of leading researchers in post-liberation periods, who were succeeded by new and subsequent generations of academics. It is quite possible that the Korean studies that unfolded outside of Korea suggest viewpoints and methodologies that would have been unrecognizable to Korean studies conducted inside the country, as the former were founded upon an image of Korea as seen from the outside. It is relevant to compare Korea’s culture and traditions against the perceptions other countries had of them. For the purpose of reaching loftier academic ambitions, Korean studies inside and outside of Korea need to interact more closely. This exhibition presents an opportunity to examine the varying historical backgrounds of the formation of knowledge about Korea. It also represents a chance for the value of Kyujanggak’s collection, essential for Korean studies even outside Korea, to be fully recognized, and it extends the realm of Korean studies so as to incorporate exchange and communication with scholars around the world. 

◎ Organization of the Exhibition
I. Eyes opened to Korea
II. Korea in Chains
III. Korea, a Subject Worthy of Research
IV. The Blossoming of Korean Studies
Miscellaneous Topics: Korean Language Study Materials, Translations of Korean Studies Materials, The Korea of Today
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