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Korean studies in France: current situation and prospects

Yannick Bruneton
Yannick Bruneton
Professor, Université de Paris (Paris 7 – Paris Diderot)
Korean studies in France have a particular period: the "massification" of students in higher education, a movement that began almost fifteen years ago. The "massification" of Korean studies in France has different levels. The phenomenon primarily affects universities in Paris and in the provinces and is characterized by a strong and long-term increase in applications for enrolment in existing Korean courses of study. The unprecedented increase in demand for training implies, at a more overall level, a dynamic that has repercussions on the recruitment of teacher-researchers and leads to a general increase in the level of activities in both training and research. The massification of Korean studies at the university in France sonce 2010 has already transformed the teaching and research landscape. The main objective of this presentation is to characterize this phenomenon and understand its consequences, in order to identify some perspectives for the future of Korean studies in France, as well as for international French-speaking Korean studies in a perspective of ten to fifteen years.

1. The past

As our aim is to understand the current situation, it seemed relevant to go back to the period in which the current period is the heir from the point of view of academic institutions, namely the period following the reforms of the 1968 Faure Law.

1-1. The development of the Parisian "heart" of Korean studies: 1970-1990
The higher education and research institutions that currently play a leading role in the development of studies on Korea in France are mainly from the post-68 period, built from a Parisian heart of a highly centralized France: the foundation of a Korean language chair at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (now INALCO since 1971, created in 1669) in 1969, the creation of the Université Paris 7 in 1970 and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in 1975.

The case of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) is different: founded in 1939, it hosted the first Korean studies specialists from the 1960s onwards (Marc Orange, born in 1937, hired in 1965). André Fabre (1932-2009), who founded Korean studies at INALCO, is one of the first generations of Korean graduates at the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations, having taken the first Korean language courses given in an academic framework by Li Ogg (1928-2001), young doctor and historian, invited in 1956 by Japanologist Charles Haguenauer (1896-1976) at the Sorbonne. This first generation team was joined in 1972 by Daniel Bouchez (1928-2014), a specialist in classical literature, hired by the CNRS. At the Collège de France (founded in 1530) an Institute of Korean Studies (IEC) was created in 1973, but it is not attached to any chair, but includes a library.

The Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), founded in 1975, from the 6th section of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (EPHE, founded in 1868), closely associated with the CNRS, from which it hosts many UMR (Unité Mixte de Recherche) type research teams, did not appear on the Korean studies scene until the late 1980s. Its particularity is to offer training courses starting from the Master's degree. In fact, it will provide the main pool of future Korean social scientists. The first research team in Korean studies at the CNRS was created in 1984.

In the early 1990s, Bertrand Chung (born 1933) founded the first chair of Korean studies at EHESS with the support of the Korea Foundation (KF), succeeded by Alexandre Guillemoz (born 1941, between 1996 and 2004). The University of Paris 7 is part of the new CNRS Korean Studies team founded by Daniel Bouchez (URA, Associate Research Unit, 1990-1994). The first office of the Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO) was founded in 1994, based at Korea University, thanks to Bertrand Chung's efforts. In 1995 a new CNRS team was created: UPRESA 8033 (1995-2006), then UMR 8173 (since 2006). From the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, the pioneers of the 1950s and 1960s retired (Li, Bouchez, Fabre, Orange, Guillemoz), so that the first generation renewal took place.

Thus, between 1970 and 1990, a "core" of Parisian Korean studies was set up, consisting of several institutions and institutions working in synergy in the field of research thanks to the CNRS: INALCO, Paris, 7, EHESS, CNRS, Collège de France, EFEO.

1-2. The development of Korean studies in the provinces since the 1980s
The creation of Korean language and civilization courses in provincial universities began in the 1980s. It takes place in several waves and concerns universities that already offer training in East Asian languages (Chinese, Japanese), mostly by recruiting specialists of South Korean origin who obtained their doctorates in France, in history, literature or linguistics, in the 1970s and 1980s.

The first wave appeared in the 1980s and concerned four establishments in the cities of Lyon, Bordeaux, Le Havre and Rouen. Thus, the University of Lyon III (Jean Moulin), is the oldest to host Korean courses since 1983 (LV3 and DU courses), which led to the creation of a diploma course: a DEUG of Korean studies (two-year course) which operated between 1988 and 2000, whose courses were taught by prof. Li Jine-Mieung (born 1946). In 1986, Korean language courses began to be taught at the University Bordeaux Montaigne by Kim Bona, doctor of literature. One year later, it is the turn of Le Havre University to offer a Korean language course by Mrs. Choi Chabal Eun Sook, which is integrated into several courses at the Bachelor and Master levels. Currently, most of the first wave teachers have retired and have been replaced. The second wave occurred at least fifteen years later, in the early 2000s (La Rochelle, Belfort), and is characterized by the beginning of the recruitment of doctors with French as their mother tongue, represented by Evelyne Chérel-Riquier, historian and doctor of Paris 7. The case of Belfort is particular in that it concerns Korean language and culture courses given within the framework of a university of technology, a unique case in France. Finally, the last and most recent wave began at the end of the 2000s with Aix (2008), then Nantes (2013) and Toulouse in the 2010s (2015).

The 2018 White Paper shows that the development of Korean studies in provincial universities follows a relatively similar two-stage pattern. The first stage concerns courses given in ad hoc settings, generally of the "evening course" or "TOPIK training" type and leading, at most, to diploma courses of the DU type (university degree) or institution-specific certificates. At this stage, teachers are recruited on shifts or on limited-term contracts. The second stage constitutes a more decisive commitment by institutions to training in Korean studies since it involves recruiting permanent staff and setting up more permanent courses as part of multi-year degree programs. The scheme initially concerns bilingual courses of the LEA (Applied Foreign Languages) type, in Korean-English or Korean combined with another East Asian language; then, ultimately, courses of the LLCER (Foreign and Regional Literature and Civilizations) type. The introduction of this type of course means a long-term commitment on the part of the institutions insofar as the introduction of a Bachelor's degree (in 3 years) opens the prospect of a higher level Master's degree (in 2 years) mainly for the LLCER course. For example, in Lyon, for example, the introduction of an LEA Licence in 2014 led to the creation of a Master's degree in 2017. Despite the age of some training courses (more than thirty years old), it can be seen that the number of tenured members attached to these courses is very limited and changes little, with some exceptions (Aix), creating a feeling of relative isolation.

1-3. Period of shortage, gestation and ripening between 1970-2010
From a quantitative point of view, the first three decades of Korean studies in higher education institutions in the period after 1968 were characterized by an overall shortage of teachers, researchers and students, as well as by major imbalances, the most striking of which was geographical disparity (Parisian centralism). From a qualitative point of view, the period was characterized by the establishment of a working environment that was constantly improving in terms of structures and resources, as a result of the combination of favourable factors both inside and outside France, as well as by a maturing and early diversification due to a successful transmission between the first and second generation of researchers. The qualitative success of the transmission is explained by the adoption of survival strategies supported materially and encouraged by the South Korean governments, in a state of mind where collective logic and cooperation in teaching and research have taken precedence.

Due to the very low number of recruitments in the still confidential field of Korean studies during the 1970s and 1990s (recruitments that take place during exceptional circumstances such as the high points of Franco-Korean relations), the renewal corresponds to a generational leap of more than twenty years with new recruits (Alain Delissen at EHESS, born in 1963; Kim Daeyeol at INALCO, born in 1964, Yannick Bruneton in Paris Diderot, born in 1970...). The generational change has ushered in a new era of enhanced cooperation between Paris 7 and INALCO, although INALCO teacher-researchers must, in 2008, leave the Korea Team of UMR 8173 to be attached to teams specific to their home institution, which is not attached to the CNRS. Cooperation was made possible thanks to the working habits adopted within UPRESA 8033, but also because of the convergence of the content of the training programs.

The factors favouring the qualitative development of Korean studies over the past four decades are, at the national level, at least fourfold, from general to specific: 1) an increasing social demand for Korea and its culture in general; 2) a nationally driven research policy promoting " area studies "; 3) a national and international cooperative networking of Korean studies (co-founding of the Association for Korean Studies in Europe AKSE, 1977; creation of the Association Française pour l'Etude de la Corée AFPEC, 1986); 4) the creation of important documentary centers. At the international level, the favourable factors are at least: (1) the democratization of South Korean society and the quality of Franco-Korean diplomatic relations; (2) the rise of the South Korean economy; (3) the establishment of long-term government policies to support Korean studies (institutions and support programmes: Korea Foundation, Kore Research Foundation, Academy of Korean Studies, Korean Studies Promotion Service, student mobility for training in South Korea).

Each of the factors set out above would merit a specific development, which can only be brief in the context of this presentation. With regard to the factors specific to France, the increase in social demand, which has accelerated since the beginning of the 21st century, is a complex and difficult phenomenon to analyze, which seems to resist simplistic interpretations. South Korea's economic success, the democratization of South Korean society (partly embodied in the 1988 Olympic Games), its proactive policy of cultural marketing and promotion of new technologies (Internet culture, scientific quality), the appeal of the Korean language and the increase in literature translations, the quality of the reception of foreigners, the (humanist) values promoted, the holding of bilateral events (celebration of diplomatic relations anniversaries, France-Korea years) have all contributed to changing Korea's image in France (associated with the Korean War) and attracting the interest of French youth, which cannot be summed up in K-pop alone. In the end, it is a fundamental movement starting from the base of French society, curious to discover Korea, and not from the political elites, and therefore, sustainable because it is not contingent on political alternation.

At the CNRS, the development of area studies as a priority has been a driving force that has tended to be reflected in universities through the creation of new courses of a more international nature. Such a situation is favourable to the recognition of Korean studies and the sustainability of its structures, to the hiring of researchers, even if the number of researchers in Korean studies hired at the CNRS is very low. In this context, cultural areas are considered as laboratories where cultural areas and scientific disciplines, often compartmentalized elsewhere, interact as factors for epistemological renewal and international influence, and are promoted through calls for projects. Korea is more systematically integrated into transnational approaches to East Asia, which benefits researchers. This policy is also in line with the development of international networks and the sharing of databases, the reconfiguration of exchanges and international academic centers.

2. The present (since 2010)

The phenomenon of "massification" of Korean studies is the new feature of the last decade at the national level in France. It is important to characterize it and understand its consequences. One response to this phenomenon is the creation of the Network of Studies on Korea (RESCOR) as part of the Core University program of the current Korean Studies Promotion Service. In 2018, the publication of the first White Paper on Korean Studies in France as part of the RESCOR provided a detailed overview of the French situation in Korean studies, the main results of which are presented below.

2-1. Phenomenon de massification of Korean studies
Features and characteristics
The "massification" of Korean studies has different levels. The phenomenon primarily affects universities in Paris and in the provinces and is characterized by a strong and long-term increase in applications for enrolment in existing Korean courses of study. For example, Paris 7, which has a single and complete training program in Korean studies of the LLCER type (from Bachelor's to Doctorate), has noted the appearance of the phenomenon since 2005. The unprecedented increase in demand for training implies, at a more overall level, a dynamic that has repercussions on the recruitment of teacher-researchers and leads to a general increase in the level of activities in both training and research. It also disrupts the power relations within structures and encourages a rethinking of institutional policies. Insofar as the phenomenon is national, it involves collective reflection and solutions that go beyond the scale of individual institutions. The causes of the phenomenon are complex and difficult to analyze. The massification, as a major trend, is explained by a set of factors that are long-term. It is likely that the trend will be easier to analyze when it has ended or slowed down, which is not yet the case. It is therefore appropriate for the moment to take a closer look at the consequences.

The high and continuous increase in applications for enrolment in university courses in Korean studies for nearly fifteen years has had multiple and beneficial consequences for the development of Korean studies. In comparison and at the same time, the studies of the North-East Asian countries (China, Japan, Vietnam) have, over the same period of time, experienced a slowdown, stagnation or even decline in universities, contributing to changing power relations and settlement policies in a long-term perspective. With the increase in the number of enrolments rapidly leading to an overrun of enrolment capacities, the courses are put under pressure because of the pressure rate (ratio between the number of teachers and the number of students), resulting in situations that are difficult for teaching staff to cope with. At this level, the solutions are of two kinds: the reduction of reception capacities so as not to have to hire, resulting in increased pressure on other universities, particularly in Paris, which are older and more reputable; or the hiring of research teachers who need to rethink the organization of training and research. In Parisian universities (Paris 7 and INALCO), the solution has been to recruit in a sustained and unprecedented way since 2010 associate professors and professors (whose overall number has increased three times in ten years, from 3 to 9). Such a policy was the result of the recognition by the French Ministry of Education and Higher Education of Korean studies as a "rare and emerging discipline", the development of which should be encouraged, showing at the same time the need for steering at the national level.

In addition, the arrival of many undergraduate students generates an increased demand for international mobility, especially as it increases the attractiveness and level of training and reduces the workload of teachers. The end of the 2000s and especially the 2010 years were marked by a considerable increase in the number of exchange agreements with South Korean universities in France, mainly in Seoul and Pusan. For example, most universities in Korean studies have concluded about ten agreements, thus making it possible to meet most of the demand for mobility. This has been made possible and promoted by the South Korean government's policy of specialization and internationalization of universities. The number of students specializing in Korean studies sent to South Korea has therefore increased significantly at the national level.

It also generates a strong demand for quality teaching materials, preferably in French, whose availability is currently limited. Over time, massification leads to a rethinking of student recruitment methods, to stricter selection methods, and to a rethinking of courses of study insofar as the increase in undergraduate degrees creates a mechanically larger pool of students for the Master's level. In Paris Diderot, for example, the LLCER program of Korean studies officially became recently a selective program.

In Paris, the massification is all the more visible as the relocation of the University of Paris 7 in 2006 to the Tolbiac district of the 13th arrondissement, near the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, joined in 2011 in the building of the Bibliothèque Universitaire des Langues et Civilisations (BULAC), located in the same district, a few minutes' walk away, has created an unprecedented centre concentrating several hundred students in Korean studies; geographical and institutional rapprochement (institutions in the Communauté d'Etablissements Sorbonne Paris Cité, ComuE SPC) of two leading institutions that have fostered collaboration between teacher-researchers, the pooling of teaching (at Master level from 2013), the joint organization of academic events involving the participation of students.

In the end, the massification, which is still at work, has led, in the field of training, to specialization, increased selection of students, diversification and enrichment of the training offer, internationalization of training and, in the field of research, increased cooperation between teachers-researchers.

2-2. Creation of a new network since 2010: RESCOR (Paris Consortium)
The application to the KSPS "Core University Program for Korean Studies" of the three main Parisian institutions that play a leading role in training and research on Korea in the human and social sciences, Paris 7, INALCO and EHESS, in 2009 and 2010, was the result of the rise of Korean studies and its renewed ability to apply collectively to international programs.

The Réseau des Etudes sur la Corée (RESCOR) or "Paris Consortium" project was, from the outset, a collective response to the massification of French Korean studies, to the demand for training (in response to the shortage of French-language teaching materials), a means of creating a flexible and effective tool for networking Francophone specialists and sharing data and experiences, using the new resources of the Digital Humanities. RESCOR is based on the principle of collaboration at the individual and institutional level, rejecting a development model based on competition. Built in the form of a consortium of institutions acting as network leaders, RESCOR is a structure that currently mobilizes all the teacher-researchers of the three institutions (14 members) and makes it possible to take actions that an isolated institution could not take. Among these unprecedented initiatives, we can note the precise mapping of the current state of the French-speaking network of Korean studies at the global level, the management of events organized in the consortium's institutions, the granting of scholarships (from Licence to Post-doctorate) through a call for tenders to students from the three founding institutions, the organization of workshops bringing together French-speaking actors in Korean studies from several continents to help create a network and a community, support for new French-language study projects in Africa, the archiving of unpublished research funds, the construction of a translation website, the publication of a White Paper and the hiring of student interns. RESCOR has set up several collaborative digital tools: a research blog and a website. The blog contributes to the visibility of the network's activities, which is not limited to a catalogue of advertisements, but also disseminates reports of events and activities as well as unpublished productions. The website consists of a database that centralizes old (issues of the UNESCO Revue de Corée) and recent work in French-speaking Korean studies, as well as documents for educational use, constituting a valuable and new documentary database.

After the completion of a first program from 2010 to 2015, the consortium was renewed as a "Core University" because of its original and effective role in the internationalization of French-speaking Korean studies (as another path to the globalization of Korean studies) and the training of new generations of specialists, and, more generally, in the revitalization of Korean studies activities.

2-3. Review of Korean studies in 2018: results of the White Paper
Quantified report and maps
- Institutions related to Korean studies :
Teaching Korean in 12 high schools, 2 middle schools, 2 elementary schools, 19 higher education and research institutions, including 12 universities (2 Parisian universities), 8 libraries, 3 museums
- Number of tenured teachers : 25 including 3 professors
- Number of non-standard teachers : 21
- Number of students : 2800; of which 1200 at the Bachelor's level; others: 1600; of which 175 at the Master's level: 175, of which 8 are PhD students
- Partnerships : agreements with universities: mainly in Seoul and Pusan
- Documentary collections : + 60,000 volumes

The White Paper unanimously reflects the difficulty posed by the current "pressure rate" which affects teacher-researchers and slows down their research-related activities. Due to the overall increase in activity, the book is a plea for the recruitment of staff in Paris and the provinces.

3. The future: what prospects?

The massification of Korean studies at the university in France since 2010 has already transformed the teaching and research landscape. Trends are perceptible and can be grouped around a few issues.

3-1. « Massification »: until when?
To question the duration of the phenomenon of massification is to raise the question of the particular situation of universities as the main outlets for social demand. Indeed, universities are in an almost monopolistic situation as places of training leading to diplomas in Korean language and culture. The lack of Korean language training institutions for the general public (such as Sejong Institutes) contributes to maintaining pressure on universities as training institutions. With the generalization of this type of structure, the number of university applications could decrease.

It is likely that in the future there will be a twofold movement: on the one hand, the overall decrease in the number of applications for enrolment due to the diversification of training places (especially in provincial universities and in the private sector); on the other hand, the sustainability of a pool of future students due to the increase in the number of primary and secondary schools to offer Korean as a modern language option. In the end, this twofold movement could result in not reducing the number of students in training, but contributing to the specialization of future students and the professionalization of courses because of the overall rise in the level of knowledge of primo-entrants to university. At least two reasons confirm a priori such an evolutionary perspective: 1) the increasingly selective nature of the courses at university entry; 2) the contribution of universities to the professionalization of Korean language teaching by monopolizing the training of candidates for a future CAPES (Certificate of Aptitude for Secondary School Education) of Korean language at Master level. In other words, university courses, which are more selective and professional, should remain highly attractive to young people in the coming years.

3-2. New fields for which research organization?
A new phenomenon in the preponderance of the social sciences
The massive recruitment of teachers-researchers over a short period of time, seeking to reduce the pressure rate while meeting the demand of Master students mainly interested in (contemporary) social issues, has led to changes in the relationships between research fields. In a few years, the predominance of History as a generalist discipline in Korean Studies is being replaced by the social sciences (sociology, anthropology). Such evolution is likely to put under tension the relationships between "civilizationists" and "contemporaries", between humanities and social sciences. Thus, one may wonder whether, in the long run, social scientists will not seek to come together to create a new research team on Korea. In the short term, the creation of a new research team or the attachment of new recruits to teams other than the "Equipe Corée" of UMR 8173, does not seem desirable because it would lead to a decrease of the visibility of a still numerically limited group of researchers and a dispersion of resources. Moreover, large institutions such as CNRS, EPHE, Collège de France still have a significant room for development in Korean Studies.

Emerging areas: classical studies and North Korean studies
Since 2010, classical studies and North Korean studies have emerged as new fields. In recent years, even if the situation remains very limited in number, there has been a renewal of classical and pre-modern studies in the fields of medieval history, classical literature and art history among (future or) new doctoral candidates. It is likely that Paris 7 University and INALCO will gradually become a training center for classical studies. This renewal benefits from the recent holding of summer training courses in classical Chinese at the AKS.

Since the end of the 2000s, as a result of the Sunshine Policy, studies on North Korea, hitherto initiated by Patrick Maurus, a literature specialist at INALCO, have been strengthened and more integrated into the Korea Team (Equipe Corée) of UMF 8173, even if they concern only a minority of researchers. Studies on North Korea are of interest to a minority of students, but it is currently difficult to formalize exchanges due to increased sanctions against North Korea at the European level. In this complicated context, the ANR (National Research Agency) project on the study of the city in North Korea, initiated in 2017 by Valérie Gelézeau of EHESS and bringing together French-Speaking researchers, is an exception.

3-3. University demographics: towards a generation renewal in 2035
Demographically, a significant number of researchers from the same generation born in the 1960s and 1970s are expected to retire in the 2035s, due to the frequency of recruitment that occurred in the 2010's. In the 2020s, recruitment policy could be slowed down due to the stabilization of the ration between enrolment and staff in Parisian universities. Such a perspective raises the question of the conditions for the renewal of this generation and the institutional and social context that will make it possible or not. Will it be possible to anticipate this demographic transition in a context where decision-making in universities is more complex, and to put a recruitment policy as intense as in the 2020's will be problematic? Will Korean studies always be considered as a rare and priority discipline?

3-4. What future for RESCOR?
The question of the future of the international network of French-speaking Korean studies arises. How to maintain and develop the tools built? How to integrate the network and its databases into larger networks? In which framework should the international network be developed (associative framework), with which objectives and resources? How to integrate other actors in French-speaking Korean Studies?

If the functioning of RESCOR continues to be relevant, it is because it has not yet been able to fully play its role as a platform for sharing educational documents in Korean studies. Indeed, the production of teaching materials in French remains a priority, both to support the massification of Korean studies at the national level by contributing to raising the level of general knowledge about Korea, and to encourage the emergence of new French-speaking projects at the international level, while maintaining French as an academic language for the study of East Asia and as an alternative to "all-English".

[ Announcement of "2019 AKS International Conference on Korean Studies" ]

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