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Wednesday,October 21,2020
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Dreaming of Dongguk as the Mecca of International Korean Studies

During the second week of May, there were diverse ceremonies for the 100th Anniversary of Dongguk University(DU), such as Centennial Ceremony, Open Music Concert, The Big Festival for Donggukians, and several international conferences. Those ceremonies met our expectations of declaring what we were and what we are.  In particular, what aroused our  attention was, I believe, the unpublished poetry of our great senior poet Mi-dang Seo Jung-ju, which was preliminarily written for DU Centennial in 1996; in addition, there were ten Buddhist poems in Chinese characters written by another great senior monk, Man-hae Han Young-hoon, almost one century ago.

The dramatic appearance of two great senior poets makes us feel all the more keenly how Dongguk University has played a crucial role in the modern history of Korea. As the chronicle exhibition of DU held at the Central Library shows, DU has contributed to the struggle against Japanese colonialism, political corruption, and military dictatorship.  Furthermore, it is well known that DU's achievements in Korean literature have been without a peer. The recent impact of Mi-dang and Man-hae on Korean literati makes it obvious that DU's literary spirit is still alive.

However, while seeing those splendid ceremonies and cultural events, we couldn't hold back a moment of self-reflection: How much have we  fostered the brilliant cultural and spiritual heritage bequeathed by our seniors?  Given its place in Korean history and culture, DU should be the center of Korean Studies inside and outside Korea. If we had established Korean Studies Center to draw together the many academic units including Korean language and literature, history, Buddhism, and the history of Korean fine arts within DU, we might have been seen as the center of international Korean Studies by this time. Then many foreign students who want to research on Korea would visit DU and our treasures stored abundantly in the campus would be translated into English and published abroad. The last line of Mah-hae's recently revealed poem, "The lotus flower be blossomed again in flames," seems to urge us to do the very thing in order to make Dongguk's spirit anew in the age of globalization.

Kim Aeju  leesj117@dongguk.edu

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