Korean Studies

The East Asian Library was established along with the Department of Chinese in 1902. The Korean collection, a part of the East Asian collections in the library, began in 1931 with a donation of nearly 1,000 books by Korean students at Columbia University. Although Korean materials were first acquired in 1931, a systematic collection began only after renewed interest in Korean studies in 1953 following the Korean War. 

Since then, the collections have been maintained and increased. Now, the collection, totaling 142,368 volumes (as of June 2017), is now the third-largest collection among university libraries in the United States. A particularly notable acquisition during the late 1960s was that of 1,800 volumes of Korean movable type editions from 17th to 19th centuries, formerly owned by the book collector Yi Sŏng-ŭi.

The East Asian Library has been focusing on materials including books, serials, and non-book formats such as audio visual materials published not only in South Korea, but also in North Korea. Additionally, in order to meet the high demand, electronic resources such as full-text databases and e-books have been purchased since the late 1990s in collaboration with other universities and with the financial support of the Korea Foundation.

The Korean collection covers a variety of subjects in the humanities and social sciences with substantial holdings in history, literature, folklore, politics, religion, and philosophy. Due to trends and changes in current research topics in the discipline, the Korean collection has also been expanded to collect materials in under-represented areas such as women’s studies, sociology, and popular culture. Additionally, as a member of the Korean Collection Consortium of North America (KCCNA) since 1994, funded by the Korea Foundation, the collection has been developed and collected in assigned subject areas such as publications on Seoul, Kyonggi-do, New York, cultural studies, performing and fine arts, education, psychology, and Korean history between 1864 and 1945.

The Korean collection primarily supports teaching and research in the Korean studies programs in the Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures (EALAC) and in the various departments focusing on Korea at Columbia. Additionally, there are local arrangements for use of the collection by Cornell University and New York University faculty and graduate students as well as residents of New York City. Furthermore, the materials purchased by Korean Foundation-sponsored grants are available via Interlibrary Loan (ILL) nationally as well as internationally.

For more information regarding the Korean collection, please refer to the Korean Studies Librarian in the C.V. Starr East Asian Library website.

a. Undergraduate

The Korean studies collection supports faculty and undergraduate students majoring and concentrating in EALAC as well as students in the School of General Studies (GS) and any students interested in or conducting research on East Asia and Korea. This includes students from Columbia College (CC), Barnard College (BC), and the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). 

b. Graduate & Professional Schools

The graduate-level, professional, and faculty population of Columbia University derive particular benefit from access to diverse collections across a broad spectrum of subjects in the humanities and social sciences. The Korean collection, which has been developed to meet the needs of graduate students and faculty members at Columbia University for their research and teaching, supports graduate programs, primarily the MA and PhD offerings at EALAC. Additionally, the collection supports other graduate programs in the Departments of History, Political Science, and Religion, the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), and so on. Furthermore, the collection supports graduate students and faculty members in the Union Theological Seminary and Teachers College.

c. Institutes, Interdisciplinary Programs, etc.

Faculty, visiting scholars, post-doctoral scholars, and the students of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute are served by the Korean collection. The East Asian Library and the institute have had a close relationship and the institute provides funding to the library. The Center for Korean Research and the Center for Korean Legal Studies are also served by the collection.     

d. Course Reserves

Selection for course reserves is up to individual faculty members. The Librarian will do whatever is possible to secure specific materials if they are not in the collection.

a. Print 

Columbia actively collects print materials published in the region on the following broad subjects: anthropology, archaeology, architecture, art and art history, decorative arts, economic history, environmental issues, ethnic minorities, folklore, genealogy, graphic arts, graphic novels, film, history from ancient times to more recent decades, history of science and technology, human ecology, international relations, music, performing arts, LGBTQ communities, philology and linguistics, law and society, library history, literature, politics and government, regional studies, religion, social history, sociology, and theology. Reference works in a wide array of subject areas are actively acquired and mostly housed in the main reading room in the East Asian Library with non-circulating status. More specialized reference titles are located off site. Materials in the Korean collection related to subjects including history, literature, political science, language, and Buddhism are located in the stacks of the East Asian Library. Materials on subjects such as arts, popular culture, and education are located in the Libraries’ shared off-site storage facility (ReCAP).  

b. Digital Collections

Columbia University Libraries purchases and offers an extensive variety of electronic resources. In addition to this, the East Asian Library purchases and subscribes to numerous Korean electronic resources, including databases, e-journals, and e-books in collaboration with other academic libraries in the United States. These materials include NuriMedia (DBPia & KRPia), the KSI package (KISS, Books I&I), KPM (Chosŏn Ŏllon Chŏngbo Kiji), and the EKS package (Kyobo Mungo Suk’olla, Hakchisa Nyu Nonmun, e-articles, Korea A2Z, History Culture Series, Korean History and Culture Research, LawnB). Two major Korean newspapers, Chosŏn Ilbo Archive and Tonga Ilbo Archive, are also subscribed to online by the library. In partnership with the Ivy Plus Library Confederation, the library is purchasing Korean e-books. 

c. Media

Columbia University Libraries strives to collect media resources and there are over 2,000 DVDs and VHS tapes in its collection, including feature and documentary films produced in South and North Korea. These materials are located in Butler Reserves and/or ReCAP. Also, the Librarian for Butler Media, Film Studies & Performing Arts who is primarily responsible for media collections acquires Korean media. The Music & Arts Library also collects materials on Korean music.

d. Languages Collected

The primary languages of the collection are Korean and English.  

e. Chronological Focus

All chronological periods are collected.

f. Geographical Focus

All geographic areas in Korea (South and North) are collected. Other parts of the world such as the United States, China, and Japan are collected selectively. 

g. Imprint Dates Collected

The main focus of collecting is current and recent (+/- three years) imprints. When antiquarian acquisitions are offered via gift or purchase, no specific chronological ranges are established in advance.

Yi Sŏng-ŭi Collection: The collection, which consists of 517 titles in 1,857 volumes, was acquired in the late 1960s. Yi Sŏng-ŭi was an antiquarian book dealer in Seoul and became the foremost authority on old moveable type in Korea. These materials consist of movable type, woodblock, and manuscripts. The materials are housed in over 700 cases and are printed, either with woodblocks, movable wood, or metal type fonts, on Korean paper made from mulberry tree fiber. Among those books, two volumes (volumes 9 and 10) are of an extremely early printed version of “Yongbi Ŏch’ŏn’ga” published in the late 15th century. These materials can be located via the CLIO, the Libraries’ online catalog, and Korean Old and Rare Collection Information System (KORCIS), developed by the National Library of Korea (NLK). 

Sin sosŏl Collection: A collection of 155 exceptionally rare, early 20th-century traditional-style Korean popular novels were published in Korean script under the Japanese occupation and printed in thin booklets. These novels are deemed unique and no other copies are known to exist, as they were in all likelihood lost or destroyed during the Japanese occupation and the subsequent Korean War. These materials were already digitized by Brill International Publisher and can be purchased as a database or microfiche.

Conant Collection: The collection is a unique and comprehensive collection produced during the 1950s and early 1960 in Korea and donated in 2008 by Theodore Richard Conant. Mr. Conant was sent to Korea as a member of United Nations Korea Reconstruction Agency (UNKRA) with the responsibilities of a recording technician in 1952. During his nine-year stay in Korea, he worked with the Korean producer Hyong Pyo Lee and other producers to create newsreel documentary films as well as propaganda for the United Nations (UN), broadcasting companies, and the U.S. Army. In addition, he produced independent documentary films. He contributed his entire collection on Korea consisting of: 285 books, twenty-one periodical issues, 123 film reels, 110 audio and twenty music reels, over 1,300 photographs, and other printed materials such as correspondence between himself and the UN, scenarios, etc. 

Kim Yong-jeung Papers (1906--1994) is the collection of Kim Yong-jeung, who was a founder and president of the Korean Affairs Institute in Washington, D.C., dedicated to the reunification of Korea. The collection, consisting of correspondence, manuscripts, speeches, documents, news releases, printed materials, audio recordings, and motion picture films, is a valuable primary source for the study of modern Korean history and the strategies and policies of Korean unification. Of interest in the correspondence are letters from John Foster Dulles, Lieut. Gen. John R. Hodge, and Maj. Gen. Archer L. Lerch, the first two U.S. military governors of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Kim Il Sung. These correspondences deal mainly with the issue of reunification. The manuscript series includes articles and speeches by Kim as well as unpublished manuscripts by others assigned to him. The documents are mainly those related to the Korean Affairs Institute. The press clippings and printed materials cover problems in Korea from 1945 to 1975 and include Korean-language newspapers and periodicals. There are also some books and pamphlets from his library, including printed volumes of Korean government documents and other books on Korea from the first two decades of the 20th century, six electronic transcriptions of radio programs in which Kim was interviewed, and one motion picture film, Liberation of Korea. This collection is available through the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Butler Library.

The Burke Library also holds special collections on missionaries in Korea, which include the Henry Gerhard Appenzeller, George Heber Jones, and Byung Hun Choi collections. 

a. Consortia and Collaborative Collecting with Other Institutions

The Korean Collections Consortium of North America (KCCNA) is a cooperative collection development program for Korean studies resources, funded by the Korea Foundation. Through this program, Koreanists at any North American institutions can have access to Korean scholarly materials for their teaching and research via free interlibrary loans.  Established in 1994 with six founding members, KCCNA now has thirteen prominent member libraries (University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Chicago, Columbia University, Duke University, Harvard University, University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Michigan, Princeton University, University of Southern California, Stanford University, University of Toronto, and University of Washington) working collaboratively to develop and share comprehensive Korean Studies collections in North America.

The Ivy Plus Library Confederation is a partnership between thirteen leading academic research libraries (Brown University, the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Stanford University, and Yale University) which collectively provide access to a rich and unique record of human thought and creativity through resource sharing and collaboration. Ivy Plus meetings are held every year and a half, during which East Asian studies librarians and library directors meet and discuss issues such as cooperative collection development, web archiving projects, etc.

b. Selection for ReCAP

Due to space limitations in C.V. Starr East Asian Library, over fifty percent of the collection is stored in ReCAP. The titles are individually chosen for ReCAP by East Asian Library selectors. The goal is to send lesser-used titles off site and to keep on site heavily used titles directly related to the Korean studies program at EALAC. Additionally, most newly acquired multi-volume sets as well as new books related to topics such as Korean novels, essays, poems, psychology, popular culture, and Korean fine and performing arts are sent directly to off-site storage. Furthermore, most non-book formats such as DVDs and microforms are also located off site. Books which have not been circulated for the past ten years and retrospective serials are also sent off site.

The library does not purchase or keep duplicate titles except for those needed for classes taught by faculty members. In that case, no more than two copies would be obtained. 

Deduplication only takes place if a title has been identified for relocation to ReCAP and a copy already exists on shelf at the facility. In this instance, the Librarian would inspect the copy that would potentially be withdrawn for any unique features or unusual provenance before assenting to deduplication.

c. Deaccessioning

Titles are deaccessioned only in cases where the physical copy is lost or no longer serviceable in paper format, or it is determined that a duplicate copy is unnecessary. Materials located in the Rare Book Room in the East Asian Library are never deaccessioned. 

d. Digitization and Preservation

Due to their physical condition, on-site access to rare books and special collections is limited for scholars and researchers. Korean rare books and special collections stored in the Rare Book Room in the East Asian Library have been digitized through collaborative projects and made available via the Columbia University Libraries website. 

Yi Sŏng-ŭi Collection: With the collaborative effort between the National Library of Korea (NLK) and Columbia University Libraries, thirty-seven Korean rare books (ninety-four volumes) have been digitized in 2010 as the first phase of a large-scale digitization project. 

Dr. Gregart’s Gift Materials: The second phase of a cooperative digital project with the NLK, Dr. Gregart’s gift materials, including three maps and nine manuscripts, were digitized in 2015. The digitized materials are now accessible through CLIO and the Korea Old and Rare Collection Information System at NLK.

Sin sosŏl Collection: The collection was digitized by Brill International Publisher and can be purchased as a database or microfiche.

Conant Collection: The collection has been digitized through cooperative projects with the Korean Film Archive (KFA) and Korea University as unique materials. So far, seventy-six film reels, out of 132 film reels, including “I Am a Truck,” edited by Sang‐ok Shin, were digitized. The films were predominantly featured in the 1950s in Korea. The 110 audio and twenty music reels digitized by the Professor Charles Armstrong in 2007 consist of various kinds of music, including Korean traditional and modern music, music for film scores, and live performances and interviews. Professor Armstrong later donated the digital versions of 146 CDs to the library in 2009. Over 1,300 photos, another prominent part of the collection, were also digitized in 2015 with KFA. The digitized materials of the Conant Collection are accessible at the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, the Korean Film Archive, and Korea University.

Hee-Sook Shin

Hee-Sook Shin

Korean Studies Librarian

  • Starr East Asian Library


(212) 854-1507
C.V. Starr East Asian Library - 310M Kent Hall
Ria Koopmans-Debruijn

Ria Koopmans-Debruijn

Head of Public Services / East Asian Studies Librarian

  • Starr East Asian Library


(212) 854-1505
C.V. Starr East Asian Library - 310 Kent Hall
Jane Siegel

Jane Siegel

Rare Book Librarian

  • Rare Book & Manuscript Library


(212) 854-8482
Butler Library - 6th Floor East Butler Library
Jeffrey Wayno

Jeffrey Wayno

Collection Services Librarian

  • The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary


(212) 851-5608
The Burke Library - Union Theological Seminary