Shortly after the end of World War II, upon return from exile, former members of the Korean Provisional Government set about the lofty goal of nurturing young talent for their newly liberated motherland, leading the way for the foundation of Kookmin University in 1946. Today, above and beyond that initial goal, Kookmin stands as one the nation’s premier institutions of higher education, boasting an array of joint research and student exchange programs with well more than 100 universities worldwide. There, Kookmin undergraduates are exposed firsthand to the country of their interest while, on home campus, they have daily opportunities to share their thoughts with students from overseas. The same can be said of Kookmin’s resourceful graduate student body, whose international profile and research agenda have become an integral part of the University’s commitment to the imperative of understanding the rest of the world.
So close yet so far, Japan in particular remains an elusive country for many Koreans, in whose view, even after over a half century of diplomatic normalization, Japan is yet to come to terms with the past. Study of Japan in Korea then abounds in sharply divisive issues. While those thorny issues still haunt the relations between the two countries (and among Koreans themselves), it behooves professional researchers to opt for reason over emotion and explore new possibilities of intellectual inquiry in approaching Japan. Founded in 2002 under the firm initiative of the venerable duo of Kim Young Jak and Han Sang Il, and fully fledged under the unwavering leadership of Lee Won Deog, the Institute of Japanese Studies at Kookmin University has accumulated a number of critically acclaimed projects ranging from primary source compilation to multidisciplinary analyses of Japanese society.
In recognition of its proven track record and further academic promise, the Institute has been christened "Priority Research Institution" by the National Research Foundation of Korea. Under the Foundation's sustained support, the institute’s researchers thoroughly catalogued and examined massive documents on the Korea-Japan normalization talks. Its five-volume, annotated bibliography of those documents was hailed by the Foundation as "Model Research in Social Science." In tandem, the Institute has made a foray into source material on the Japan side. Funded by the Northeast Asian History Foundation, the Institute’s researchers have systematically scrutinized declassified Japanese archives to show the intricate inner workings of Japanese foreign policy. Funding sources outside Korea such as the Japan Foundation and the Japan World Expo Fund Project have also made generous contributions for the Institute’s numerous publication and translation projects on contemporary developments surrounding Japan. In recent years, with younger researchers newly on board, the Institute has incorporated their research interests in revisiting Japan’s socioeconomic situation and its comparative significance.
Instead of staying within the confines of an ivory tower, researchers at the Institute strive to respond to the demands of popular audiences and policy makers by putting together some of the most cutting-edge academic work in an accessible language on its biannual journal Japan Space while sharing their work with other professional circles through open conferences, ad hoc colloquia, press interviews, and the like. Along the way, the Institute has helped forge a collegial platform for spirited dialogue among Japan specialists far beyond the national border. We are prepared, as in the past, to put our findings to the test with the same rigor by working with fellow researchers from all over the world. As we greet interested members of the online community at our website, all of us at the Institute renew our fidelity to judicious scholarship in pursuit of knowledge and wisdom.