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Subject guide

Korean Studies

Overview of databases, reference works and website for research in Korean Studies

Since March 2017 the Korean collection is located in the Asian Library. For the latest news on the build of the new library the check the Asian Library Blog.

Follow the Asian Library on Facebook en Twitter for announcements, library tips & tricks and collection highlights.

Reference Collection

The reference works for Chinese, Japanese and Korean Studies are an excellent starting point for research. Reference works are for reviewing in the reading room of the library only and therefore cannot be borrowed.

In the collections for reference you will find:

Reference works and bibliographies
Course materials

The collection on Korea in the Asian Library is a necessary supplement to the lecturers and students who respectively teach and learn about Korea and its interesting language and culture. Emphasis is laid on history, religious studies, philosophy, and classical and modern literature. But there are also many books available in English and Korean regarding the subjects of  politics, sociology, anthropology, film, law, and economics.

Learning about Korea and the Korean language began for the Dutch before there was even a course available at university level. It begins with the story of Hendrik Hamel (1630-1692). In 1653, this VOC accountant was shipwrecked on the way to Japan on a yet unknown shore, that of present day Korea. Hamel survived the disaster, along with 35 other Dutchmen. In those times, Korea was still totally cut off from the rest of the world. The report which Hamel wrote regarding his 13 year long forced stay was the first, and for a long time, only source about Korea in the West. After thirteen years, Hamel and seven others succeeded in leaving the peninsula and managed to reach the VOC trade post of Deshima in Japan. 

In 1855, J.J. Hoffmann (1805-1878) became the first professor of Chinese and Japanese in Leiden (as well as the whole of the Netherlands). Hoffmann also learnt about Korea and its language. In order to make his task easier, he made use of books which Ph. F. von Siebold and his contemporaries had brought back from Japan. He probably made use of Chinese sources as well. 

In 1957, Frits Vos (1918-2000) was appointed as the first professor in Japanese and Korean and only later, in 1969, a separate Centre for Japanese Studies and Korean was created with its own separate library. From 1981 onwards, the Centre and library (with its own librarian) are together at the Arsenaal. In 1994 Korean Studies got its own professor.

Professors and lecturers of Korean Language and Culture regularly consult each other regarding the accumulation of the library. Emphasis is laid on history, religious studies, philosophy, classical and modern literature. Politics, sociology, anthropology, film, law, and economics have been added in the last decennia. Within the Asian Library, it is necessary that the Japanese and Korean departments share a budget. However, the library receives support on an annual basis from the Korea Foundation and there are exchanges with libraries of the Seoul National University, the National Library of Korea, and the National Assembly Library. The EAL is one of the best equipped libraries in the world outside of Korea in the area of Korean film. In 2008 the EAL received a subsidy from the Korean Council (KOFIC) of which it was made possible for the library to add hundreds of Korean films and  books about films. Moreover, the collection grows year by year with many more interesting titles. 

Bibliography of Asian Studies (BAS)

The Bibliography of Asian Studies, is a large database with thousands of articles on various subjects on East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia. It is a great starting point for collecting materials when doing research or writing a paper.

The great thing is you can read the article fulltext immediately from your screen - provided Leiden University has access. Find out if we do by clicking 'find it @ your library' which appears just below the article description - it will take you to the Get-it@Leiden screen where you can click the links. Search BAS by typing in search words in the simple home search screen, but if you want to view a selection of articles, it is more convenient to browse BAS by subject and then choose for which country.

When showing the search results of a subject search in BAS, it is not clear how the ranking is done, probably by relevancy. It doesn't rank by date and there is no button for you to display it any other way. There are a lot of 'older' articles shown, but BAS is surely up to date (as articles from 2010 did show up in search results). Please note the advanced search screen is rather good to use, here you can for example restrict by year, plus many more options.

There are some Help pages available on how to perform better searches and how to download references to a reference manager like EndNote or Zotero.

Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

The East Asia department of Berlin was founded in 1922 as a seperate department of their State Library. Western as well as Asian books are part of their collection.

The East-Asia collection of the Staatsbibliotheek zu Berlin has a history going back to the 17th century. Unfortunately,  a bigger part of the old collection, books published before Word War II, were taken away after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Parts of the collection can be found in Krakow, Poland and the Russian State Library in Moscow.

Because of this, a bigger part of the current collection consists of books acquired after 1950. However, with the generous support of the German Research Council, the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin managed to become the biggest East Asian library in Europe by the number of books.

HOLLIS (Harvard University Library)

The HOLLIS Catalogs of the Harvard University Libraries are databases containing over 11 million records for more than 15 million books, journals, manuscripts, government documents, maps, microforms, music scores, sound recordings, visual materials, and data files. The databases are updated continually as material is ordered, received, and cataloged.

The HOLLIS Catalogs contain entries for many, but not all, materials in formats other than books and journals (e.g., manuscripts, maps, visual media, microforms and government documents) owned by Harvard University libraries.

Harvard-Yenching search engine

To find books on subjects in the East Asian Library you need a so-called Harvard Yenching code

The name has been derived from the Harvard Yenching systematic catalogue, a catalogue with a focus on East Asia. Every code represents a certain subject. This way one can perform detailed queries for books on certain subjects.

Until recently it was only possible to find a subject code using the original systematic catalogue - a set of files and books, half a century old, that underwent many changes. For those not familiar with the catalogue, it was not straightforward and difficult to use.

This problem was solved when Harvard yenching Search Engine emerged. In the Harvard Yenching Search Engine one can search the database with simple keywords. It is also possible to browse through certain subjects, by the codes, but also more structured because of the categorization of the subjects.  Once a subject has been found, one can click on the subject code which will link the user through to the books in the Leiden University Catalogue with that same subject.  This system offers staff and students the possibility to looks for materials that would otherwise not be found.

Official national websites


Choson Wangjo Shillok - Annals of the Chosun Dynasty
The Annals of the Chosun Dynasty (朝鮮王朝實錄), 1893 books in total, covering a period of 472 years(1392~1863). It is the history of the Choson Dynasty, starting with the reign of Koning Taejo, the founder, until the end of the reign of King Cheoljong. An important source.

History & Culture Series
Folklore and Archaeology mainly of Korea for educational purposes.

Korean History & Culture Research Database 
Provides access to excavation reports and reports about cultural relics published in Korea since the 1940s.

History As Social Process
The History as Social Practice: Unconventional Historiographies of Korea project is dedicated to interdisciplinary research and teaching on representations of Korean history.

Reference Works & Bibliographies

LawnB-Legal information service 로앤비
Korean law directory with indexes, full-text files, etc. Included are cases, laws and regulations, legal articles, lawyers, forms, administrative law, and business law.

Chosŏn Ilbo Archives 
Search in all issues of the (Korean language newspaper) Choson Ilbo from the first issue of 1920 until present.

KNSO-Korean National Statistical Office
Website of Korean Statistics - KOSTAT, previously known as Korea National Statistical Office - KNSO, providing economic and social statistical information on Korea.

News Papers & Periodicals

Chosŏn Ilbo
On-line version of the paper edition of the same name. N.B. the paper version of this Dailyis available in the reading room with some days of delay.

Kyonsong Ilbo
Full-text edition of the Japanese news paper in Korea during the colonial era/period 1907-1945 (incomplete).

Website with e.g. 30 Korean newspapers (full-text), magazines (list of contents) etc.

Shinmun Kagye
Portal service for newspapers 신문가게 

Theses with subjects in the field of Chinese, Japanese and Korean Studies can be found in the database of the Theses Search Engine. One can query all fields by entering a single search term in the search field. Filters can be applied by selecting certain options. To have the database return all theses, leave the search field empty. Click on the x-mark to reset the search form.