The Establishment of Seoul National University & the College of Liberal Arts at the Dongsung-dong Campus

Seoul National University was founded on August 22, 1946, when the Office of Academic Affairs of the American Military Government in South Korea promulgated the “Decree on the Establishment of a National University in Seoul.” The forerunner of the present College of Humanities ? the College of Arts and Sciences ? was a product of a merger between the College of Law and the College of Science and Engineering of the old Keijo Imperial University(or Gyeongseong University) of the Japanese colonial era.

From its very inception, the objective of the CLAS was to promote research in the humanities and natural sciences and foster the education of young scholars. In the 1950s and 1960s, the CLAS was unquestionably a pioneer in the development and dissemination of the modern university system as we know it today.

The 1970s: The Move to Mt. Gwanak & The College of Humanities

As the university grew in size, the “Ten-Year Integration Plan” was devised to respond to the various needs for systemic reform. The CLAS, which had previously been divided into the College of the Arts and the College of Sciences, was moved to its current Mount Gwanak location in February, 1975, and divided into the College of Humanities, College of Social Sciences, and College of Natural Sciences.

The newly formed College of Humanities comprised the following 11 departments: Korean Language and Literature, Chinese Language and Literature, English Language and Literature, French Language and Literature, German Language and Literature, Linguistics, Korean History, Eastern History, Western History, Philosophy, and Archaeology (the latter having been separated from the department of Archeological Anthropology). At the newly integrated campus, a major influx of new faculty invigorated the research and teaching capabilities of old. With this renewal of personnel, the College of Humanities rose to the forefront of not only the study of Korean culture and heritage, but also other humanities-related fields such as philosophy, aesthetics, and foreign literatures.

The 1980s: A Cradle for Humanities Studies

The 1980s ushered in an era of change for the College of Humanities. In the five years that followed its move to Gwanak, the College of Humanities faced increasing demands for the development of a humanities research capacity able to parallel the growth of Korean society. As active academic exchange with various universities abroad increased across a wide range of disciplines, so did the need to expand beyond the horizons of the already established fields of study. To address such changes and create a systematic and organized research system, the College of Humanities embarked on a general restructuring process.

In 1981, the department of archaeology was renamed the department of archaeological art history, and in 1984, the departments of Russian Language and Literature and Spanish Language and Literature were created. In 1985, the department of Philosophy was divided into the departments of Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Religion, solidifying its reputation as a highly organized foundation for the study and research of humanities. Along with such reforms, the existing departments further strengthened their programs at the graduate level and actively sought to train and supplement their faculty and curricula. As a result, the College of Humanities faculty boasts some of the strongest research at both national and international levels.

The 1990s: Globalization and the Development of Research Capacities

As it entered into the 1990s, the College of Humanities began to move beyond its department-centered system and to develop various interdisciplinary and combined programs. In looking beyond the domestic boundaries of Korean society and seeking to globalize the field of humanities, the College of Humanities was able to create a human and material foundation for a global humanistic research and education system.

At the graduate level, interdisciplinary programs were established in Greco-Roman Classical Studies (1989), Cognitive Science (1994), Comparative Literature (1997), Record Management (2001), and Performing Arts (2002). At the undergraduate level, an interdisciplinary program in Korean Studies was established in 2001. Furthermore, the College of Humanities hosted expert scholars from abroad to exchange and share their research with SNU’s own scholars, laying the human groundwork for extensive academic exchange. There are currently 15 departments and 5 graduate-level interdisciplinary programs. In 2001, the Research Center for Humanities was converted and expanded into the Institute of Humanities (IOH), which comprises 16 affiliated research centers. This has enhanced both deeper, specialized research within the respective departments, as well as close association and cooperation among the different departments. Such depth and breadth in academic research has been recognized by the National Research Foundation, which selected the IOH as an HK (Humanities Korea) Project grant recipient for its “Civilization Research Project” since 2007.

Looking to the Future

Ever since its inception, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Humanities has cultivated a progressive academic climate that seeks to integrate tradition and future by inheriting and reinterpreting from a modern perspective the best parts of our ancestry while exploring universal human values. Despite rapidly changing social trends, time has proven that the College of Humanities is capable of nurturing future scholars and leaders both within Korea and on the international arena. With the dawn of a new century, the College of Humanities is building on its tradition of scholarship to rise to new social and academic challenges. All of us here at the College of Humanities are convinced that the humanities have a vital role to play in renewing human values and pointing the way to future society.


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