The Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures is saddened to learn of the passing of our longtime colleague Gari Ledyard, King Sejong Professor of Korean Studies Emeritus at Columbia University, at the age of 89.
Gari Ledyard was born in Syracuse in 1932. He joined the army in 1953, and after receiving intensive Korean language training, he was assigned to a posting in Tokyo, and transferred to Seoul in November 1955. In the following year, he matriculated into the University of California at Berkeley. Although there was no Korean Studies program at Berkeley then, he obtained his BA degree in 1958 after submitting his English translation of the Hunmin Jeongeum Haerye. Ledyard completed his PhD dissertation “The Korean Language Reform of 1446” in 1966. He started teaching that same year at Columbia University, where he was promoted to full professor in 1977, and became King Sejong Professor of Korean Studies in 1994 until he retired in 2000. Ledyard served as Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures from 1980–1983. In 1992, he founded the Center for Korean Research. In the 1980s, Ledyard completely revamped the classical Chinese curriculum at Columbia, establishing for the first time the principle that first-year classical was open to students with background in any of the East Asian languages, even without previous study of modern Chinese.
Gari Ledyard is known for his The Korean Language Reform of 1446: The Origin, Background, and Early History of the Korean Alphabet (University of California PhD dissertation; its revised version was translated into Korean and published by Shin’gu Munhwasa, Seoul, 1998), The Dutch Come to Korea (Royal Asiatic Society, 1971), and “Cartography in Korea”, a book-length monograph with 61 illustrations in The History of Cartography, Vol. 2, Part 2 (University of Chicago Press, 1994). He is the author of “Galloping along with the Horseriders, Looking for the Founders of Japan” (Journal of Japanese Studies, 1975), “The Mongol Campaigns in Korea and the Dating of The Secret History of the Mongols” (Central Asiatic Journal, 1964), and other monographs, articles and essays on a wide range of subjects concerning Korean and Asian Studies. As we mourn the passing of Gari as a scholar, colleague and friend, we also send our thoughts to his family and friends.
To read his obituary, please visit this link.