This overview surveys the Library's collection of materials relating to the study of Korea. The Korean Section of the Asian Division has custody of materials written in the Korean language. Other materials pertaining to Korean studies are held in appropriate custodial units in the Library.
The collection of Korean materials began in earnest in 1950 when the Korean Unit was established in the Japanese Section, at that time part of the Library's Orientalia Division. The collection developed during the ensuing years of organizational changes as the Chinese and Korean Section in 1964 and as the Korean Section of the Asian Division in 1990.
The Library began to acquire current Korean trade publications on a regular and systematic basis in 1955 through an approval plan with a Korean dealer. One of the significant strengths of the Korean collection, the Korean government publications, is the outcome of an exchange agreement signed on September 24, 1966 between the Republic of Korea and the U.S. In the 1920's the Library acquired a notable Korean collection in traditional Chinese format (books published in Korea but using Chinese characters) of some 2,000 volumes. Some of these materials are fine examples of early printing with movable copper type, obtained through the assistance of Dr. James S. Gale, a Canadian missionary to Korea who was a diligent student of Korean culture and its people.
The Library's Korean-language collection has approximately 120,000 volumes. In addition, there are approximately 5,000 English- language and 15,000-20,000 Japanese-language books about Korea. It is the largest and most comprehensive collection outside of Korea. The collection holds more than 6,400 periodical titles. The 250 newspaper holdings date from the 1920's to the present; some of them are Korean diaspora publications from this country. The Korean Section receives average of 5,000 monographs and 4,200 current serial titles annually. The current serial titles cover major magazines, government reports, and academic journals from North and South Korea.
The Korean-language collections cover virtually all subjects of value to scholarship. The collection is comprised of works 40% in the humanities, 40% in the social sciences, and 20% in general works, science and technology, and bibliography. The Library probably has the most comprehensive coverage of Western-language materials on Korea. For other special format materials, the Library has rare, old Korean maps in the Geography and Map Division and many unique and rare Korean photographs and prints in the Prints and Photographs Division.
The major portion of the collection consists of contemporary publications, other than those in traditional Chinese format published during the Yi dynasty of Korea (1392-1910). Efforts are made to collect visual non-book materials such as documentary films, musical discs, and posters. Some of the significant collections are:
- Korean government publications: 45,000 v.
- Microfilms: 1,000 reels
- Movement publications: 1,200 items
- North Korean publications: 8,000 v.
- Works written in traditional Chinese format: 2,500 v.
Both monographic series and the serial collections could be strengthened by filling in gaps of missing volumes and issues as well as the so-called Pimaep'um (Non-priced publication) of both monographs and journals. Efforts are being made to acquire publications about both Koreas published in Japan. Materials published in Korean communities outside Korea, especially in the U.S., are of increasing importance, but the irregularity of publication and the difficulty of identification of these materials make them difficult to acquire on a systematic basis.