In an introduction to his 1931 Royal Asiatic Society bibliography on Korea, the first such comprehensive bibliography of Western publications, Horace Underwood noted the following:
»Almost two years ago at a meeting of the Council of this Society, our President, Bishop Trollope, suggested that I undertake the preparation of a bibliography of occidental works on Korea. I strongly suspect that he knew what he was proposing but I can assure you that I did not.«
As I think back on the genesis of our own Harvard Korean Studies Bibliography, now more than three years ago, I find that Mr. Underwood's remarks strike a highly resonant chord. When three of my doctoral students in Korean history, led by Frank Hoffmann, first approached the Korea Institute with the idea for a CD bibliography on Korea, my colleagues and I were delighted to sponsor it; like our students and most scholars in the Korean studies field, we were continually frustrated by the absence of a current, comprehensive, and readily accessible database on Korea that could be used as a guide to study for the general examinations, prepare syllabi for classes, and initiate research for dissertations and other scholarly work. A splendid idea, we thought; let us do it! Little, however, did we appreciate at the time the enormity of the task on which we were embarking. Since Underwood's day, the number of works on Korea has exponentially increased. Even more to the point, we were contemplating a bibliography based on an entirely new technology, unimaginable to the average person less than a decade earlier.
Fortunately, my students, as usual, were way ahead of us and did indeed know what they were proposing. Most of the credit belongs to Frank Hoffmann, who has been the presiding genius of the enterprise from beginning to end. Without his knowledge of the field of Korean studies and of computers (and programming), his attention to detail, and his perseverance, this Bibliography would never have seen the light of day. Throughout the process, he was ably assisted by two fellow Harvard doctoral students, Matthew Christensen and Kirk Larsen. The Korea Institute, with help from the Korea Foundation in Seoul, provided financial and logistical support, but in the end the Bibliography was really a labor of love that the students themselves undertook and brought to completion, even while shouldering the burdens of teaching undergraduate sections and tutorials, studying for generals, working on their dissertations, and trying to preserve a niche for personal and family life. A note of gratitude is due also to the Harvard Asia Center Publications Program for its willingness to support a project that by the Center's standards is somewhat unconventional in format and content. Indeed, to my knowledge the Bibliography is the first CD to be published by the Center.
The Harvard Korean Studies Bibliography is a truly twenty-first century research tool for scholars interested in Korea. Incorporating a popular bibliography software program, it offers quick electronic access to over 80,000 references, including more than 20,000 abstracts, on an astonishing array of topics, from such common Korean historical subjects as the Kabo Reforms to more arcane topics like the Intestinal Parasites of Cats Purchased in Seoul. In addition to locating references, the Bibliography also allows scholars to transfer references quickly and in a variety of bibliographic styles directly to their own documents, whether these be reading lists, syllabi, dissertations, or book manuscripts.
To be sure, researchers are advised to maintain a certain critical perspective in using the Bibliography, especially as many of the references come from other bibliographies and databases whose contents could not always be checked for accuracy. Nevertheless, all of us involved in the project are convinced that the Bibliography, used critically and carefully, will greatly accelerate and enhance scholarship and teaching in our rapidly developing Korean studies field. Our recommendation is that researchers utilize the Bibliography as a crucial first step toward exploring the range of Korean studies publications in Latin alphabet languages and toward building up their own specialized bibliographies and syllabi, to which additions and deletions can be made over time. In the end, of course, the quality of the bibliographies, syllabi, and scholarship produced will depend on the individual scholar's or teacher's willingness and ability to go directly to the source cited in the Bibliography and assess its relevance and validity for her/himself.
Carter J. Eckert
Director, Korea Institute
Professor of Korean History