From 1966 through 1981 the Peace Corps sent more than two thousand volunteers to South Korea, to teach English and provide healthcare. A small yet significant number of them returned to the United States and entered academia, forming the core of a second wave of Korean studies scholars. How did their experiences in an impoverished nation still recovering from war influence their intellectual orientation and choice of study — and Korean studies itself?

In this volume, Peace Corps Volunteers and the Making of Korean Studies in the United States, former Volunteers who became scholars of the anthropology, history, and literature of Korea reflect on their experiences during the period of military dictatorship, on gender issues, and on how random assignments led to lifelong passion for the country. Two scholars who were not volunteers assess how Peace Corps service affected the development of Korean studies in the United States.


Co-editor Seung-kyung Kim is Korea Foundation Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and director of the Institute for Korean Studies at Indiana University.

Co-editor Michael Robinson (South Korea 1969–71) taught at the University of Southern California and Indiana University.

Kathleen Stephens, the former US ambassador to the Republic of Korea and herself a former Volunteer in Korea (1975–77), contributed an afterword.

The other contributors are Don Baker, Edward J. Baker, Donald N. Clark (South Korea 1968-70), Carter J. Eckert, Bruce Fulton, Laurel Kendall (South Korea 1978-80), Linda Lewis, Okpyo Moon, Edward J. Shultz, Clark W. Sorensen, and Kathleen Stephens.

Peace Corps Volunteers and the Making of Korean Studies in the United States
edited by Seung-kyung Kim and Michael Robinson
University of Washington Press, Center for Korea Studies Publication
August 2020
266 pages
$45.00 (paperback): $95.00 (hardback) — both can be preordered


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