Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Korean studies grants to support scholarship, research, cultural activities

U-M's Nam Center for Korean Studies recently has received gifts and grants of nearly $2.9 million that will create new opportunities for scholarship, research and community engagement.

  Undergraduate students Sun Hung Woo and Hye Seung Ryoo perform Sa-mool-nori during the Chuseok event, a Korean thanksgiving celebration. They are members of "Sinaboro," a Korean traditional drumming group at U-M. The event was sponsored by the Nam Center for Korean Studies in October. (Photo courtesy of Mitch Park)

Alumnus Woon-Hyung Lee, chairman of SeAH Group, Korea's major steel pipe and tube manufacturer, will establish two $500,000 endowment funds: the Woon-Hyung Lee Korea Culture Fund and the Woon-Hyung Lee International Korean Studies Fund. The endowments will strengthen programs promoting cultural, educational and international experiences.

The Woon-Hyung Lee International Korean Studies Fund endowment also qualifies for a $250,000 contribution from President Mary Sue Coleman's Donor Challenge Fund.

In addition, the SeAH-Haiam Art & Science Scholarship Foundation, for which Lee serves as chair, will provide $10,000 annually for the next three years to support cultural activities and teacher-training programs.

Nojin Kwak, director of the Nam Center and an associate professor of communication studies, says Lee's gifts continue a tradition of philanthropy.

"Like his previous gifts, Chairman Lee's endowment funds will be utilized to strengthen the center's programming on Korean culture, including collaborative activities with the University of Michigan Museum of Art," Kwak says.

The Academy of Korean Studies also has awarded an Overseas Leading University Program for Korean Studies (OLUKS) grant to the center. This five-year grant of approximately $900,000 will strengthen the center's scholarly programs and fund academic conferences and symposia on modern and contemporary Korea.

"This grant will provide students with fellowships as well as funds for scholarly programs in diverse fields, including communications, literature, art, culture, religion and sports psychology," Kwak says.

A gift of $750,000 from The Korea Foundation will create the Korea Foundation Korean Language Program Directorship, providing the Korean Language Program (KLP) with organizational stability and programmatic leadership.

"Along with the significant growth of the enrollment in Korean language classes, the KLP directorship endowment puts the program on a promising trajectory," Kwak says. "The Nam center will use its resources to provide students with an opportunity to learn the Korean language and more about the history and culture of Korea."

The Nam Center for Korean Studies was launched in 1995 as the Korean Studies Program. Elder Sang-Yong Nam, a 1966 U-M graduate, noticed a lack of Korean art and literature at U-M when he arrived on campus in 1964. He began advocating for Korean language courses at U-M in 1984 and over the years became the center's largest benefactor. In 2010 the center was named in his honor. He died in March 2011.

Over the years the center has grown to one of the leading Korean studies programs in the country. The center's growth has been nurtured by donors and alumni from Korea.

"Donors from Korea have provided some of the most generous international gifts to the university," says Peggy Burns, assistant dean for advancement in LSA. "This tradition of philanthropy is a tribute to Korea's connection to the University of Michigan, dedication to education and the desire to share the culture, arts and literature of their amazing country."