High enrollment, few majors: Korean major added, requirements revised for majors in the East Asian Languages department

Rory Mather | Contributing Reporter

In an attempt to attract more undergraduate commitment, the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALC) has revised its major/minor requirements in Chinese and Japanese and created a new Korean major.

Despite robust course enrollment, relatively few students declare majors and minors within the EALC department. According to Director of Undergraduate Studies for the EALC department Ginger Marcus, while around 600 students take courses in the department, only 20 have declared a major.

Marcus believes that the difficulty of earning a major or minor in the department has prevented many students from taking more advanced classes. According to Marcus, the number of required credits, including prerequisites, was recently dropped from 57 to 47.

“The current major requirements had remained unchanged for at least 30 years,” Marcus said. “It was time for a change.”

The newf ound flexibility in the two majors gives students more freedom to focus either on a language or non-language track.

“Students can now either continue taking a language for their upper-level requirements or take more culture classes,” Marcus said.

As well as making revisions to existing majors, a new Korean major will be made available to students starting next year.

Since its creation three decades ago, the Korean Language and Culture section of the department has seen a fourfold increase in students taking Korean language classes, prompting the creation of the new major.

“We now have 19 students minoring in Korean. For a small program like Korean that’s a very large number of students,” Korean Language Coordinator Mimi Kim said.

Although the Korean minor was created less than a decade ago, the department has seen an increase in students interested in Korean and wanted to expand its program to include a full-blown major.

“Korea is expanding so much in pop culture, business, engineering, even in politics. Students really want to get more involved in learning about Korea,” Kim said.

Freshman Romulo Sosa is considering declaring a Korean major this coming fall.

“When I first applied to Wash. U., I wanted to get a Korean minor because I wanted to become fluent in the language. I’ve learned so much this past semester and a half and the teachers really know what they’re doing. I figured if I’m already spending that much time learning Korean, why not get the major?” Sosa said.

The new Korean major follows the same trend as the new Chinese and Japanese majors with its more general requirements. Again the goal is to offer their students the flexibility to take multiple majors in different subjects. Sosa is one student who will be able to take advantage of this trend.

“My primary major is marketing and my dream job is to work at Samsung in their brand management department,” Sosa said.

Ji-Eun Lee, associate professor of Korean language and literature, thinks the new Korean major is necessary in order to have a complete department of East Asian Languages and Culture.

“In order to fully understand the connection between China and Japan, you have to know about the country in between the two,” Lee said.

The department is planning to advertise the new major through social media and word of mouth across campus, but Lee is relying on enthusiasm of current students in Korean classes to bolster interest.

“We have so many students who are really into Korean culture. All of the Korean events that we hold are well-attended. I think that there is already an interest for this major on campus and I’m not worried,” Lee said.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.

Subscribe