Newsletter No. 55 (January 2010)

A Report on the Workshop for Overseas Korean Librarians in Seoul, 18-25 October 2009

Kyu-won Hwang

Korean Librarian
University of Auckland, New Zealand


It is my pleasure to present a report on the Workshop for Overseas Korean Librarians on the EALRGA Newsletter.
The Workshop was a product of the joint efforts by the Korea Foundation (KF) and the National Library of Korea (NLK). Its details are;

  • Date: 18-25 October 2009
  • Venue: National Library of Korea & other places
  • Participants :  11 librarians from 7 countries

     (USA, Russia, Hong Kong, Japan, France, England, New Zealand)

The Workshop held in 2009 was the fourth of its kind. One of the noticeable things about the Workshop is the decreasing number of participants (Korean librarians), and accordingly the decreased frequency of the Workshop. According to the statistics of the NLK, the first Workshop took place in 2005 with an intention to hold annually when it had 24 participants. Then the number of participants was reduced to 19 in 2006, then 18 in 2007. Thereafter, the Workshop started to be held once every two years. There seems to be a lack of Korean librarians around the world, or low demand for a Korean collection. It would be interesting to see what holds for the future of the Workshop if this diminishing trend continues.

The Workshop consisted of lectures on various topics related to Korean studies, discussions with librarians in Korea, and visits to several institutions. The institutions visited during the Workshop are;


(Picture shows Korean librarians from overseas, staff at the NLK, and the KF members. I am the third one from the right at the back queue) (Photo: Kyu-won Hwang)

Throughout the Workshop, the attendees received many lectures on a variety of topics such as Korean culture, history, information resources for Korean studies, and other information. The following is brief summary of those lectures.

►Early encounters of Choseon dynasty and the West during the pre-modern period
– presented by Dr Yoong-hee Jo (Academy of Korean Studies)

This lecture was about the contacts of the Korean people during Choseon dynasty with the Western worlds, as well as Western people’s visits to Korea between the 18th and 19th centuries.
Koreans’ meetings with Westerners mainly took place in China, which was Ching dynasty at that time. Those Westerners were mostly missionaries, and some of them went to travel Korea and wrote personal records about pre-modern Korea.


►Bookpaper and bookbinding of old Korean
– presented by Guiwon Lee (Korea Research Institute for Library and Information)

The lecturer started off by talking about how papermaking was introduced to Korea and how Koreans came up with their unique ways of making paper.
The paper used in old Korean books was different from that used in Chinese and Japanese old books in terms of size and quality. The history and development of papermaking in Korea was introduced throughout the different phases of Korean history.
Another interesting point was the history of bookbinding methods for old Korean books, beginning from a scroll, then concertina binding, butterfly binding, wrapped-back binding, then stitched binding. This lecture seemed quite attractive for the audience. Many attendees showed keen interest in this lecture.


►Introduction to the Korea Foundation’s programme to support Korean studies overseas
– presented by Kyong-chul Park (Korea Foundation)

This was an information session that talked about the range of support programmes by the KF for Korean studies outside Korea. Their programmes are (i) support for Korean studies and Korean language programmes, (ii) establishment of Korean professorship, (iii) employment of teaching staff, (iv) visiting professors,  (v) establishment of Korean Studies Centre, (vi) support for overseas libraries, (vii) policy-oriented research programme, and (viii) distribution of resources for Korean studies.


►Introduction to reference information sources related with Korean studies
– presented by Yong-wan Jo (Pusan University)
This session was one of the most useful lectures during the Workshop because it was directly related to my work and contained a lot of good information for future developments of the Korean collection.
The lecturer introduced a wide range of resources available on the Internet on various topics such as general information on Korea, economy, management, legal information, and mostly importantly, scholarly information resources including academic databases.

►Introduction to RISS International
– presented by Sooji Lee (Korea Education & Research Information Service)
RISS stands for ‘Research Information Service System’ (link: http://www.riss4u.net), which is a Korean educational database provided by KERIS. KERIS is a government-affiliated organization that promotes the development of learning and education in Korea. RISS International (link: http://intl.riss4u.net) is an international version of RISS.
According to KERIS, RISS International provides a unique and comprehensive gateway to research resources in Korea. It contains some 2.4 million journal articles, 4.8 million bibliographical records, and theses and dissertations published in Korean universities. Its intended users are researchers and libraries of Korean studies outside Korea and it provides services such as federated search across various information sources, full-text downloading, downloading of MARC records of Korean items, and inter-library loans.

►Revised romanization of the Korean language
– presented by Woon-young Lee (National Institute of the Korean Language)
This session was an introduction to the revised romanization (transliteration) method of the Korean language which was announced by the Korean government in 2000. Before that, an old romanization way that is conventionally called the McCune-Reischauer system (M-R system) had been used in Korea and around the world. Still, most of the libraries in the English-speaking countries are using the M-R system including the Library of Congress in America and our library.
The lecturer discussed why it was changed, what has been changed, and special exceptions to the rules. The Korean government has been promoting the use of this revised system, but the rest of the world is still unwilling to adopt the new system partly due to the inconsistency in Korean governmental policy in this matter. For example, to my knowledge, the Korean government had changed the romanization rules about five times since its independence in 1945 to 2000. There was a rumour that the Korean government may change the system again in the coming future, which is not confirmed.

►Introduction on NIKH Information Retrieval System
– presented by So-young Yoon (National Institute of Korean History)
A brief introduction of the National Institute of Korean History (NIKH) and databases on Korean history were talked about in this lecture. Especially, the process of the implementation of Korean history databases was explained in detail.  The Korean history database is a system designed to provide access to research materials that are related to Korean history at NIKH (available at http://db.history.go.kr).
We were shown various databases like ‘Sillok Online’ (Silliok is a historical record of the period of a king’s reign), ‘Korean History Thesaurus’, and ‘Korean History On-line’. This lecture also provided useful information about e-resources on Korean history that can be included in the update of the Korean studies website.

On the whole, the one-week Workshop had been such an invaluable opportunity to learn about many aspects of Korean studies. The first meeting of the attendees started with an informal dinner at the Seoul Garden Hotel. It turned out to be a pleasant outing. From the following day the busy daily schedule consisted of many lectures, discussion sessions, and visits to different organizations. The schedule was demanding yet certainly worthwhile. We were provided with such wonderful information on Korean studies.
On the last day we were given a tour around Seoul. The visits to the National Museum of Korea and the Changdeok Palace were memorable. Besides, the wonderful ranges of foods of Korean traditional and modern cuisines were certainly one of the highlights of the Workshop.
Along with other ten attendees, the time I had in Seoul was full of wonderful memories and provided an opportunity to build friendships among Korean librarians around the world.


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