News  Korea Foundation donates $1 million toward professorship

East Asian Studies professor points to challenges faced by area studies

The Korea Foundation, a charitable organization owned by the government of South Korea, has pledged $1 million for the establishment of a Korean Studies chair in the Department of East Asian Studies.

This will be the first time that the University has a tenure-track position in Korean Studies, according to Robin D.S. Yates, the Chair of the East Asian Studies Department.

According to its website, the foundation seeks to “broaden understanding of Korea among the peoples in the global society” and describes itself as the nation’s “foremost institution to advance Korea’s public diplomacy interests through global communication.”

The Department of East Asian Studies has been working with the foundation for over twenty years trying to “develop [McGill’s] Korean language program and Korean studies program,” according to Yates.

Despite its ties to the South Korean government, Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi told The Daily in an email that while “the University will keep the Foundation informed of the process of selecting the Professor,” all decisions will be made by “the University in its sole discretion, in keeping with its academic mission, and its policies and practices, with vigilant protection of speech and academic freedom.”

Last year the University raised more than $84 million in gifts and pledges: 73 per cent from individuals, 18 per cent from foundations and 9 per cent from corporations, according to Vice-Principal (Development and Alumni Relations) Marc Weinstein.

“Philanthropic gifts to the University reflect an intersection of donors’ interests and the University’s priorities,” Weinstein told The Daily. “Fundraisers are assigned to every Faculty of the University, and work diligently to secure gifts from alumni and friends to support areas of academic priority.”

In an interview with The Daily, Thomas Lamarre, a professor in East Asian Studies Department, highlighted some of the difficulties faced by “area programs” such as East Asian Studies and African Studies.

Since program budgets have to be maintained in order to keep a permanent staff, the “politics of funding different programs often happen around hiring: what program gets new hires or is allowed to rehire after retirements,” Lamarre said.

The dean and upper administration determine those priorities.

“Obviously every program feels underfunded, and funds will probably get tighter,” Lamarre said, but area studies or non-western studies tend “to receive less funding and generally fewer new hires.”