Korea, ca. thirteenth century.
Brass, iron, copper, and wood.
The collection of Korean materials began earnestly in 1950, the year that the Korean War broke out. Even the Library’s Korean collection has started a relatively late, now it is the largest and most comprehensive outside of East Asia. The collection is largely contemporary, but it also has a number of valuable pre-nineteenth-century publications in traditional format.
The Library has approximately 240,000 volumes of monographs and over 6,500 periodical titles. The current serial titles cover major magazines, government reports, and academic journals from both North and South Korea. Also, Korean Team has 2,000 reels of microfilms and 250 different newspapers go back to the 1920. The collection covers a broad range of topics, from the classics, history, literature and arts to social and natural sciences. The Library’s Korean collection has become a focal point for Korean affairs, while a growing interest in South Korean economic and technological developments and the influx of Korean immigrants have increased the demand for information on Korea.
One of the strengths of the Korean collection is Korean government publications, the result of an exchange agreement signed in 1966 between the Republic of Korea and the United States.
The Library probably has the most comprehensive coverage of Western-language materials on Korea. There are approximately 9,000 English language materials. The Korean Team completed an online Korean Bibliography in 1998. The Korean Bibliography is a comprehensive and user-friendly bibliographic tool for researchers and scholars interested in Korean studies. Based on the table of contents of publications, the topical terms were added for the users who are not familiar with the Library of Congress Subject Headings. Since it is an online bibliography, one can access this resource from anywhere through use of the Internet.
The Korean Team has a strong collection for hard-to-get materials. One example is a “gray” material, so called “Minjuhwa undong collection.” These are publications that have been banned until recently for ideological and political reasons, such as the works of authors who criticized the dictatorship of the Presidents of Korea.
Also there are materials that rarely exist since they were destroyed during the Korean War. One example is the Newspapers published by North Korean communists in Seoul during the Korean War (e.g. Haebang Ilbo and Choson Inmin’gun) and also Korean textbooks. These kinds of materials are hard to find elsewhere, in other institutions. Korean rare collection also includes the first editions of literary works by prominent Korean authors.
A significant strength of the Korean collection is its section in early Christian Korean history. The Korean Team has possibly the most outstanding and impressive collection of early Christian Korean publications outside of Korea. The collection spans from 1884 to 1927. Some of them are earlier works than those on record. The collection includes early Bibles, commentaries, catechisms, literature, and doctrines.
The Korean Serial Database provides researchers with detailed information about the rich and diverse newspaper and periodical collections located throughout the Library of Congress. The Korean Team has some 6,500 periodical titles, including 200 North Korean titles. The database may be searched via keyword, author, publisher, publication date, simplified subject entries, English titles, Romanized titles, Korean titles, newspapers, and limiting searching by North or just South Korea. With vernacular script searching capabilities, Korean Serial Database is a pioneering project in the Library of Congress.
Special collection: Soviet-Korean
The Korean Team has focused on acquiring material published in Korean communities outside Korea, such as those in the U.S., Japan, Manchuria, Russia, and elsewhere. As part of this effort, the Korean Team acquired a collection of handwritten biographical sketches with portraits and pictures from Uzbekistan. These are biographies of 80 Soviet-Koreans leaders (Koryo-ins), who were sent to North Korea by the Soviet Communist Party in the mid-1940s to help establish and administer the North Korean government and North Korean institutions. However, in the mid-1950s, Kim Il Song started to distance himself from the Soviets. Soon Soviet Koreans became the target of the purges and faced a hard choice; whether to leave Korea or risk arrest and, perhaps, even eventual execution or death in prison.
The history of the Soviet faction was very short - consisting of only about 15 years, but it was one of the most powerful instruments of the policy of “Communization” of the Korean peninsula.