Drawing from existing faculty strengths in Korean studies, the University of California, Irvine launched a Center for Critical Korean Studies (CCKS), funded by the Academy of Korean Studies, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in South Korea.

In response to a surging interest in contemporary Korean popular culture and society among students and to leverage UCI’s faculty strengths in Korean studies, the Center will develop innovative interdisciplinary programs, provide research grants for cutting-edge book monographs and essays, hire leading postdoctoral students in critical Korean studies, and invite Korean studies scholars from around the globe to share their research.

The Center’s focus on critical studies draws upon UCI’s strengths and reputation in critical theory, which is an interdisciplinary field of study focused on examining the political, cultural, economic and social relationships within a culture or field of study. The CCKS will focus on producing Korea-specific critical theory as it relates to race, borders, ecology and contemporary popular culture. The Center will promote activities about learning to read and write Korean, to think critically about Korea’s relationship to the Pacific Rim region and consequently to the world, and to develop a deeper historical understanding of Korea. Such understanding of the important theories and practices of Korean studies, the Center feels, will be critical to the broader understanding of the current globalization and its effects. Ten UCI faculty from three different schools will serve as participating faculty.

UCI’s current Korean community includes 22% of current students and more than 10,000 alumni of Korean ethnicity or citizenship. In 2015, the UCI Alumni Association launched a Seoul chapter, which currently has 263 members, and a Korean-American chapter in Orange County/Los Angeles, which currently has nearly 200 members.