Institute of East and West Studies • Yonsei University

About Us

The Institute of East and West Studies at Yonsei University is

a research center devoted to the advanced study of politics, economics, social science and cultural life
- both domestic and foreign - as well as international affairs. Founded on March 23, 1972 as one of the major university research
institutes, the purpose and scope of the IEWS continue to guide and define its mission in the twenty-first century.
The main focus is to reinforce globalization of Yonsei education and enhance comprehensive research.

1970s Basic foundation of the IEWS was established and extensive research on developed nations was conducted.
1980s Standardized seminars and forums were held. The institution vitalized Socialism Studies of former Soviet satellites and expanded the area of research to developing nations and other corners of the world.
1990s The agenda was expanded to include specific research endeavors leading to a vast accumulation of knowledge. The richness of the collection in regional and interdisciplinary research led the IEWS to be a prominent contributor to the education marketplace. To consolidate its agenda, the Regional Collaboration Program, which provides master’s degrees, was initiated.
2000s With the new era emerging, the focus was relocated to intensified research consistent with the policy oriented forums and seminars. Alternative initiatives were formulated in accordance with government policies.
2010s We seek to become a "Global Hub of Area Studies" by strengthening our regional research and developing interdisciplinary research and a new research agenda with a focus on diverse academics and educational methods

The Institute of East and West Studies at Yonsei University was founded on March 23, 1972. Before the birth of the IEWS, the early 70s, was a time of peaceful change; both the East and the West were shifting their position from acute ideological confrontation to a d?tente based on mutual trust, seeking reconciliation. In February of 1970, former United States President Richard Nixon proposed the Nixon Doctrine via a presidential message delivered to Congress. The doctrine indicated a need to gradually retreat from the Asian region. This meant exiting the Vietnam War to leave behind self-sustaining Asian states protecting their own sovereignty, thereby reducing the US’ foreign burdens. The doctrine, furthermore, promised future efforts to increase contact with China as a means to normalize relations. As follow-up measures, on July 15, 1971, Nixon announced plans to visit China. His historical visit in February of 1972 signaled the start of an ice-breaking process between the East and the West.

The warm breeze of change surrounding the early 70s also influenced the Korean peninsula by relaxing tensions in the region. Both North and South Korea had to accept the changes - an easing of strained relations between the East and West - occurred in Asia, as seen through the meeting of two giant states. As a result, the Korean peninsula enacted moves towards reconciliation during 1970 and 1972: the July 4 Joint Statement by both Koreas in 1972, the first South-North Red Cross conference in Pyongyang that August, the second conference a month after in Seoul, and the first South-North Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 「House of Freedom」 of Panmunjeom later in December.

Unfortunately, the wave of reconciliation in the early 1970s also brought about negative impacts. Though the international d?tente between the East and West enabled the two Koreas to start talks of peace and cooperation as a necessary step towards easing tensions, it also reinforced a rigid system within the peninsula. The US’ approach to China caused North Korea to worry over possible changes to the international order. The US’ approach to China gravitated North Korea’s sense of crisis regarding the uncertainties of possible changes of the international order. As for South Korea, the sudden retreat of US forces from the territory rang an alarm on the peninsula’s security matters. In short, contrary to the reconciliatory atmosphere in the international community, a sense of crisis in the peninsula was escalating. In reaction, on October 17, 1972, former South Korean president Park Chung-hee announced the dissembling of the National Assembly and also declared emergency martial law. The dramatic shift from positive opportunities to domestic crises in the year of 1972 brought about pain and suffering to the South Korean society, especially to the young adults on college campuses. The emergency martial law decreed pre-censorship on the media and the closing of universities. The people’s high hopes for positive outcomes from the South and North meetings were drowned in despair. To make matters worse, the Yushin Constitution (Revitalizing Reforms constitution), promulgated shortly after the announcement of martial law, suffocated the cries for truth and freedom, enforcing an unjust silence in the country.

The establishment of the Institute of East and West Studies was an outcome of a series of earnest academic efforts to find desirable solutions and answers in a time of change and chance. Externally, possibilities for reconciliation between the East and the West in all fields - including but not limited to diplomacy, economy, culture and more - were increasing, and thus the need for academic studies and understanding on critical regions and states was also elevating. Internally, the South Korean populace was hoping that the long-waited opportunity of peace between the two Koreas would have positive outcomes. In order for South Korea to seek a harmonious and sustainable growth with balanced economic growth and social stability, an in-depth study was rendered even more necessary.

The necessity of an academic response to the dynamics of the 1970s was first addressed by Park Dae-sun in 1972, Yonsei University president at the time. In his New Year’s address, former president Park suggested the establishment of a new university-based research institution that could meet the academic needs of the wave of reconciliation between the East and the West. According to his speech, Yonsei University was planning to establish a new research facility to compare and research the cultures of the East and the West. He also mentioned that the school was seeking ways for Korean culture and international cultures to contribute to each other by means of interdisciplinary research in the humanities and social sciences. The new facility would enable South Koreans to solve international issues with our own hands, and as a result, address domestic problems as well. Professors already shared the compelling need to take academic action during such times of change, and thus the Institute of East and West Studies was born. Yonsei University had adhered to its tradition of seeking peace and truth, like it did by leading movements towards enlightenment in the late Chosun dynasty, pioneering the fight for independence during the colonial era, and concentrating on the modern development of the country under the flags of freedom and justice after independence. It had answered to the international community’s flow and spirit of collaboration and reconciliation, and the national call for peaceful and prosperous unification.

A university's contribution to the state and community is measured by the research outcomes of the schools' research facilities. Outcomes are not only a criterion to estimate the university's academic level, but are also a stepping stone for state development. In this regard, a university's foremost mission lies in academic research, and thus the school must fully invest in doing so. Former school president Park's hopes to transform Yonsei University into an effective research-based school by encouraging academic research in specific campus research facilities notably reflected the expected role of a university. Within his proposal, what captivated the listeners’ attention the most was that the new-born institute would be a 'pan-Yonsei' research facility, becoming the base for all academic research bodies on campus.

In the former facilities, there lacked any visible system or significant outcomes. The common norm of a ‘1 person 1 research institute’ dominated campuses. Despite Yonsei’s annual investment of one hundred million Won into diverse research during 1972, each of the 20 research facilities and its results were still far from satisfactory. However, unlike the former facilities, the new institute would run on a different yet reasonable administrative system in order to gather the attention and participation of all academics in Yonsei University. Therefore, the new Institute of East and West Studies had not only the responsibility to overcome the fundamental problems of prior research facilities, but also the challenging task of starting a new research system.

The Institute of East and West Studies was born under pressures to meet its goals. The IEWS works as an interdisciplinary facility, putting efforts to focus the schools' academic potential. In particular, the IEWS undertook joint studies with Yonsei University's Graduate School of Business and Graduate School of Public Administration from the early stages of its history. This interdisciplinary effort to break free from the individual-based research norm shocked academia, for most researches were narrowly focused on their respective field only, instead of taking a more comprehensive approach.

The Institute of East and West Studies is the established result of Yonsei University's long history of academic potential. In an interview conducted on March 16, 1972 by the Yonsei Chun-chu, Yonsei University's student newspaper, former president Park emphasized that the institute would address diverse fields of study on core regions of the world in a multidisciplinary manner, which would contribute to the seek for both the country's rightful heading and world peace and prosperity." [The IEWS will grow to be] a pan-Yonsei research facility, the compilation of Yonsei's 80-years of wisdom and tradition." With former school president Park as the director and professor Han Ki-chun of the College of Economy and Business Administration as assistant director, the institute established 7 departments: Department of Domestic Issues, Department of North Korea and Communism Research, Department of Japan, Department of Southeast Asia, Department of Europe, Department of America, and Department of the Middle East and Africa. In short, the institute was established to synthesize the segmented areas of research via mutual exchange of past studies and cooperation during times of turbulence, thereby reaffirming South Korea's international prestige and light up its future path.

The purpose of the establishment of the Institute of East and West Studies was to comprehensively conduct academic research on politics, economy, society, and culture of major regions and countries in the world, to find the direction for Korean society to go forward, and to promote mutual recognition in the international community. It was to contribute to cooperation and peace and prosperity of mankind. In order to carry out this purpose of establishment, the Institute of East and West Studies pursued research at a global level and organic cooperation in all academic fields from the beginning.

The direction of the first research project proposal of the institute was

(1) to adjust theories to fit South Korea in the field of social sciences by verifying Korean history in the fields of politics, economics, and social studies
(2) to contribute to the development of an independent, national culture by revaluating the western civilization introduced to the country since the time of enlightenment
(3) to research and study North Korea and the Communist bloc in various fields and angles, seeking specific methods for reaching unification
(4) to compare the systems of the two blocs, the East and the West, in various fields, and
(5) to study the so-called "North and South" problem, the relationship between the developed and the developing countries in terms of economy and trade.

Thus, the institute's direction was to shed an academic light upon the core issues of the international community in various fields, and revaluate them through South Korea's point of view as an attempt to readjust theories in a Korean way in the field of social science. Accordingly, the institute categorized various research projects into long and short term issues and carried them out systematically.

The institute's activities in its early stages were

  • Conducting research
  • Developing research
  • Hosting domestic
    academic conferences
  • Hosting international
    academic conferences
  • Hosting academic seminars
    with both domestic and
    international experts
    as participants
  • Sending researchers and
    research assistants abroad
  • Inviting foreign professors
    and research fellows
  • Establishing a cooperative
    relationship with foreign
    research facilities and
    academic societies
  • Promoting interdisciplinary
    research by printing publications
    and trading them

The Institute of East and West Studies practiced these activities to cooperate with academics and professionals all over the world, not to mention professors and experts in Yonsei University, and to conduct research on an international level. In doing so, the institute's basic directions were as follows

(1) To understand and contribute to ending the cold war, and thus achieve world peace and prosperity, academic cooperation, and mutual understanding between
     the East and the West built
(2) to compare the systems of the Communist bloc and the non-communist bloc, and devote to regional research to provide solutions to international problems, and
(3) to develop cooperative research between various fields to search for new theories and derive alternative policies.

<출처 : 동서문제연구원 30년사>

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