October 21, 2002

Kroch Library Receives New Korean Texts

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Mr. and Mrs. Il Hwan Cho donated the newly published complete Korean translation of the Buddhist Sutras to the University’s East Asia Collection in Kroch Library last Friday. The text is 384 volumes long and is the first of its kind in any American university library.

This Korean translation completes Cornell’s collection of Buddhist Sutras as the University already has a Japanese and a Chinese version, according to Thomas Hahn, curator of the East Asia Collection.

“What’s important is the commentaries [in each translation],” Hahn said. “The commentaries explain how people absorb the texts in daily life. The same text can be interpreted very differently in China than in Japan or Korea. This is where we see the Buddhist traditions springing into life.”

Being the first university in America to have the complete text will “enhance our position,” said Prof. Michael Shin, Korean history and literature. “Anyone studying an aspect of Korean Buddhism can make use of them,” he added.

Cho is not connected to Cornell as an alumnus or parent, but he said he was very impressed by the Korean Studies Program and wanted to help.

“We decided to donate the books because irrespective of today’s religion, Buddhist teachings are imprinted in most Korean [people],” Cho said. “This has been the strong base of Korean culture.”

Some members of the Korean student body said these texts are important in how they perceive themselves as members of the Cornell community.

“Children of my generation were always told by our parents to be successful as professionals,” said Dan Keh ’03, president of the Korean Students Association (KSA). “I think along the way a lot of us missed learning about how rich our culture is. I took Intro to Korea last year, and I learned how Buddhism and even Confucianism fused with Christianity has created who I am living as a Korean-American.”

For other students, the books’ new home has a broader significance.

“This is one of those reasons you want to be at Cornell,” said Angie Kim ’03, a member of KSA.

The Chos also previously gave the East Asia Collection a $10,000 grant to purchase Korean compact discs, videos, and books. Such cultural media, according to Shin, “has made it easier to be a Korean in the Ithaca area.”

The informal ceremony to honor the Chos, held Friday afternoon in Olin Library, included a cake in the shape of an East Asian book.

Cho described the cake, saying, “It is so beautiful that I want to keep it.”

After hearing the students, professors and library curators say how much the gift meant to them, Cho said, “I feel more obliged to do something more for this school. What you tell us today puts a lot of pressure on my shoulders.”

Cho also had words of wisdom for students everywhere.

“To have a lot of knowledge is important,” Cho said. “But, to have wisdom is more important. How do you get wisdom? Through strong will and inspiration.”

Archived article by Freda Ready