New Korean Language Flagship Program To Launch

Written by Katie Vaughn

“The second of its kind in the nation — which will give UW-Madison students a new way to pursue intensive study of Korean language and culture — adds to the university’s reputation as a foreign-language leader.”

The University of Wisconsin-Madison will soon launch a new undergraduate Korean Language Flagship Program, becoming the second Korean Flagship in the nation.

With a grant from the National Security Education Program, the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures and the Language Institute in the College of Letters & Science will create the new Korean Flagship, designed to prepare undergraduate students of any major for professional competency in Korean by graduation.

“This ambitious new program will offer unprecedented opportunities for UW-Madison students to study Korean language and culture on campus and overseas to a level that few other U.S. citizens achieve,” says Dianna Murphy, Director of the Language Institute.

Part of the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Security Education Program’s Language Flagship Program provides funding to universities to produce language-proficient professionals with linguistic and cultural expertise needed for U.S. national and economic security. In addition to Korean, currently funded languages are Arabic, Chinese, Persian, Portuguese, Russian and Turkish.

The new Korean Flagship at Wisconsin — which joins the first Korean Flagship at the University of Hawaii — will build upon the strengths of the current undergraduate Korean Language Program and on the university’s growing capacity in Korean cultural studies.

“Today, South Korea is among the top 10 trading partners of the United States, and North Korea is considered to be among the top national security concerns,” says Byung-jin Lim, an associate professor of Korean in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures. “In addition, since the late 1990s, a cultural phenomenon, the so-called ‘Hallyu’ or ‘Korean Wave,’ represents the growing aspiration around the world to know more about Korean popular culture through television and movies.”

The university’s Korean Language Program began in 1986, and specialists in Korean Studies work across disciplines — from language and linguistics to history to film studies. While students can not currently major in Korean, they may pursue a certificate in East Asian Studies with a concentration in Korean. And a new undergraduate major in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, with options of East Asian Studies, South Asian Studies, Southeast Asian Studies and Trans Asian Studies, is slated to begin in fall 2019.

The Korean Flagship will establish an intensive Korean summer program and offer new 400-level courses for students who have completed eighth-semester Korean or the equivalent. It will also establish a Korean language floor in the International Learning Community and a First-Year Interest Group that includes first-semester Korean starting in fall 2020.

In addition, plans are in place for the Flagship to add a capstone overseas program at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea, that will include a professional internship.

UW-Madison already has one Language Flagship Program, in Russian, which was established in 2010 and is run jointly by the Department of German, Nordic and Slavic and the Language Institute.

And the university is home to the South Asian and Indonesian Flagship Initiatives, for recipients of Boren Scholarships or Fellowships from institutions across the United States to study Hindi/Urdu or Indonesian at UW-Madison in the summer and then to study abroad in the subsequent fall semester.

“UW-Madison is well known as a leading institution in foreign language education nationally as well as internationally,” says Lim. Being awarded the new Korean flagship “indicates excellence in foreign language instruction in general and also recognizes the outstanding quality of the Korean Language Program in particular.”

Earlier this year, The Best Colleges ranked UW-Madison as second in the nation, and first among public universities, for innovative language learning, calling it “a leader in foreign language education and research.”

During the academic year, students can study more than 40 different languages and major in 15 of them. They may also major in linguistics, the scientific study of human languages. The university graduates students with majors in languages other than English more than any other American university. UW-Madison considers the study of languages, literature and cultures a key component of the Wisconsin Experience in preparing students to become leaders who are engaged locally, nationally and globally.

“Being granted a second Flagship program in an intense national competition is a tremendous accomplishment,” says Susan Zaeske, Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities in the College of Letters & Science, “and yet another sign of UW-Madison’s strengths in the teaching of languages and cultures.”