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For the past year, the James Joo-Jin Kim Program in Korean Studies has been deciding what to do with its $7.5 million endowment.

This money, which the program received last year, is “providing important operational support this year for the program, essentially underwriting a wide range of its activities,” according to School of Arts and Sciences Dean Rebecca Bushnell.

Before the endowment, the Center for Korean Studies was “reaching the bare minimum of promoting Korean with a small regular lecture series and short-term research grants,” Program Director and Korean history professor Eugene Park said. “The gift allows us to continue doing these and to do much more.”

According to Park, the program plans to put into place additional components such as visiting professorships, graduate and post-doctoral fellowships, study-abroad internships and regular conferences. It will implement the graduate fellowship for the upcoming academic year, and the other components will begin soon after.

Bushnell added that future activities will also include a Korean Studies colloquium, the addition of a graduate fellow, faculty research grants, Korean language lecturer conference travel grants, graduate research grants and four scholarships for students participating in the program.

The gift has set the program on a course of positive change and promising growth, according to Korean Studies faculty and students.

“The gift has really allowed the program to feel independent, and to begin a careful period of growth,” Frank Chance, associate director of the Center for East Asian Studies, wrote in an email.

Park agreed, adding that the gift has made the program financially secure and relatively autonomous from its previous sources of funding, which were the University and the Korea Foundation — a South Korean group that supports Korean studies outside of South Korea.

Chance added that the gift “will work in very positive ways to improve Korean Studies at Penn,” progressing toward the overall goal of the James Joo-Jin Kim Program, which is “to see the growth of Korean Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.”

According to Bushnell, “this new gift will ensure that an understanding and appreciation of Korea is woven into the fabric of Penn’s academic life and expose an increasingly wider audience of students to Korea.”

College senior Jooyeon Hahm, who has been heavily involved in Korean Studies and plans to continue to pursue her doctorate at Penn in the program, said the gift has had numerous positive effects.

“The program is getting larger and greater and can do a lot of different things,” Hahm said. “I have a sense of hope and optimism that because we now have money and we can do more stuff, people outside of the program also will believe that we can do great things.”

According to Park, the overall goal is to make Korean Studies at Penn unique when compared to other institutions.

“I would like to build a program that is more transnational — something that is not solely focused on Korea but can promote a better understanding of Korea in relation to other parts of East Asia and the rest of the world,” Park said.

Park added that students and faculty have just begun working toward this goal.

“As much as I try to publicize the existence of the program, people are just beginning to hear about it [especially with news of the gift], whereas word about the field of Korean Studies has been out for awhile,” he said.

This ground-up start may not be a bad thing, according to Hahm.

“I definitely feel that because it’s just starting off […]there are more opportunities for its growth and […] as a student I can contribute more,” she said.

Park agreed that overall, this is a “truly exciting time for anyone at Penn interested in Korea.”

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