Sociology is the study of social life, social relationship, and social change. It aims to explain how human actions shape or are shaped by social structure and cultural practices. The subject matter of sociology is as broad and diverse as social life itself, ranging from the family to the state and from social class to gender and race, and from social networks to culture and identity.
Sociology combines both theories and practices. Although sociology emphasizes a theoretical approach to the society we live in, this theory is not separated from reality but continuously reconstructed through empirical research and analysis. The purpose of sociology is to explain diverse social phenomena by investigating specific and practical problems that arise in various areas of our society.
Sociology pursues diversity. We can say that another characteristic of sociology is diversity, that is individuals with diverse characteristics and different roles interacting within the larger matrix of society. Diversity also means democratic and egalitarian ways to look at society. It emphasizes interdisciplinary approaches with other academic fields because it seeks multiple ways to resolve the problems through critical thinking and creative analysis of social phenomena and social problems.
Sociology emphasizes open-ended discussions and seeks better answers. Yonsei Sociology values communicative and collaborative discussions between professors and students as well as among students. We stress systematic observation for our undergraduate and graduate students to gain and obtain tools and methodology to understand various social phenomena. Through this process, we strive to build a creative culture of active discussions by overcoming the fundamental problems in our education system, a one-way street from professors to students, and a monopoly of knowledge held by a small group of individuals. There is no single best answer for the sociological questions, but we can find “better” solutions.
The history of Yonsei sociology dates back to 1918. The first sociology class in Korea was taught in 1918 by Han-kyung Won, the third Yonhee Principal. Yonsei Sociology continued its legacy through lectures by Nam-woon Paik and Kyung-duk Ha, and finally, Yonsei University Department of Sociology was founded in 1972.
The Department of Sociology has achieved great progress during the past five decades. From its humble beginnings without any full-time professors, the department has currently grown to accommodate 11 full-time professors. It has awarded master’s and doctorate degrees to over six hundred students. Underlying these numerical and qualitative accomplishments is the passion and dedication of scholars who built and developed the sociology department throughout its half-century-long history.
In 1973, Professors Byong Je Jon and Kye Choon Ahn were simultaneously appointed as full-time professors. Two professors—Bok Song and Yong-Shin Park—were appointed during the spring and fall semester of 1975. Professor Jae-sik Chong joined the department as faculty in 1980, and the next year, Professor Hae-joang Cho became a faculty member. In the spring semester of 1987, Professors Yong-Hak Kim and Seok-Choon Lew were appointed as full-time professors. In 1990, Professor Jae-sik Chong moved back to Boston University, and two years later, Professor Ho-Ki Kim joined the department as faculty. In the fall semester of 1995, Professor Dong-No Kim became a faculty member, and the number of full-time professors nine.
At the turn of the twenty-first century, there have been active recruitments of faculty members. In the year 2000, Professor Hyun Mee Kim was appointed as a full-time professor. In the spring of 2001, Professor Wang-Bae Kim joined the department. Professor Jun Han and Professor Chan-Ung Park joined the department as faculty members in 2002 and 2003, respectively. The year 2005 added two new faculty members, Professor. Jaeyoun Won in the spring, and Professor Yoosik Youm in the fall semester. After Professors Hae-joang Cho and Hyunmi Kim left the sociology department to build the Anthropology Department in 2008, Professor Jeonghan Kang became a faculty member. In the second half of the 2010s, three professors—Youngmi Kim, Dohoon Lee, and Seong-soo Choi, Juyeon Park— joined the department as members in 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2023 respectively.
Yonsei Sociology initiated the Special Professor Exchange Program to invite well-renowned sociologists from other societies since the second semester of 2000. They bring outstanding research and teaching credentials to the department. For example, Youngjoo Cha (Sociology Department, Indiana University-Bloomington) has joined Yonsei Sociology as an associate professor since 2019. As of 2021, Professors Byong Je Jon, Kye Choon Ahn, Bok Song, Yong-Shin Park, Yong-Hak Kim, and Seok-Choon Lew have all retired and are now serving as professors emerita.
Thirty students entered the undergraduate sociology program each year from 1972 to 1978. The number of sociology majors increased to 60 (open to all liberal arts students) in 1979-1980 and 90 (only eligible for those who entered sociology or psychology departments) per year in 1981. Between 1982 and 1984, the number of sociology students grew to 104 per year due to the Graduate Quota System. The number gradually reduced to 88 (1985-1987) and 80 (1988-1989). Since 1990, the number of sociology majors has been limited to 70 per year. While both liberal arts and social sciences students were allowed to choose sociology as their major between 2000 and 2004, only social sciences undergraduates were recruited after 2005 when the sociology department moved its affiliation from the College of Liberal Arts to the College of Social Sciences. From 2005 to 2021, 1,025 sociology graduates were produced for 17 years (about 60 graduates a year).
The sociology department established the graduate program in 1976. The first master’s graduate is Junho Kim, emeritus professor at Kangwon National University. The first doctoral graduate is Haeng-Cheol Shin, emeritus professor at Jeju National University. By 2021, the department has conferred 105 Ph.D. degrees and 512 master’s degrees.
The sociology department published the Yonsei Journal of Sociology from 1977 to 1994. The Institute for Social Development Studies, established under the auspices of the sociology department in 1992, published the Journal of Social Development Studies (1995-2004) and the Journal of Contemporary Society and Culture (2007-2010).
The faculty members have published their works in top-ranked academic journals, including the American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Demography, and Social Forces. According to Pure, the world’s leading research information management system from Elsevier, sociologists at Yonsei have published 109 articles in globally renowned academic journals and received 39 media attention worldwide in the past three decades.
The sociology department has been the recipient of the Brain Korea 21 grant from the Korea Research Foundation since 2006. The department has provided graduate students with scholarships and stipends and helped students to present their works at international conferences and publish their research in academic journals. The department has also fostered collaborative academic partnerships, including but not limited to Harvard University, Princeton University, UPenn, Indiana University-Bloomington, Freie Universtät Berlin, University of Tokyo, Peking University, and Australian National University.
The sociology department prides itself on its communicative and collaborative culture. The department hosts special events for undergraduate and graduate students, including spring field trips, spring athletic competitions, and fall hiking trips. The fall hiking trip has been a tradition of the Yonsei sociology department since 1986. These social events offer unique opportunities for students to interact with other students and faculty members and to foster a better intellectual community.