The humanities is where life, a human and love become one. What does it mean to be human? How should we live? From the seed of life comes a human, who in life meets others and forms love. Beginning from "I," the origin of humanistic thought, and moving beyond "we" into a comprehension, toleration, and love of “others” is what I believe to be fundamental to that academic enquiry into humanity itself, the humanities.
The humanities is thus a ceaseless exploration of the meaning of human existence and life. To this eternal question of ours, different eras have found different answers, but only when the “self” takes on these answers through humanistic thinking does the genuine meaning of each answer come within our reach.
These answers and their truthful meanings, however, must be communicated between people to show what they really are. The question of "what values should I pursue in life?" cannot be disengaged from the question of what others around me think and what kind of life they value. As we talk to others, share our opinions and persuade one another, we begin to understand the greater horizons of the problems that face humanistic thinking. And it is through the written word that we go beyond the words we share with our contemporaries and experience the awe of meeting the greatest thoughts of all ages and regions.
That the work of our university's academics is attracting attention not only from here but overseas is an indication of how communication, which is at the heart of the humanities, is now being done at an international level.
It is clear from these questions and pursuits of the humanities as to why the abilities of reading, writing, and speaking are the most basic of all humanistic skills. Because they are the most fundamental of skills for the most eternal of problems, humanistic training equips us with the power of insight that provides a wider perspective and sharper discernment. That the leaders of our society and nation need grounding in the humanities, in addition to their professional expertise, is very obvious. For it is only those with the understanding that humanity is not reducible to any short-term profit who can maintain balance and calm in the face of chaos and conflicts small and large. As much as the world may change, the fundamental desires and the need for what defines us as human will always exist in the same form.
The real method of dealing with the meaning of human existence and life comes from communicating not only with our own times but also with our past. This is why the College of Humanities emphasizes foreign languages proficiency, reading comprehension and writing skills, critical analysis, and comprehensive understanding. The more we include intellectual traditions rich with helpful knowledge, the likelier we are to approach the humanistic insight required of us by our age. In this process of discovering one's own meaning through humanistic thinking, the groundwork for living an intellectually rich life will be created.
We at the College of Humanities at Seoul National University gladly welcome you who have taken on the challenge of these most fundamental questions of humanity in pursuit of such a life.
Dean, Lee Jae-Young