The China Studies Program is relatively new when compared with the Japan or Korea programs. The university established a Department of Chinese Studies in the 1960s. With the rise of China economically and politically, the university began to realize that the Department of Chinese Studies which offered courses on Chinese language, literature and the Chinese community in Malaysia was inadequate to understand contemporary China. Hence, China Studies was established as a master component of the DEAS in 1996. Like the Japan and Korea programs, the China program offers a comprehensive curriculum on the study of China. However, the focus is more on the contemporary parameters of the social, economic and political life of mainland China.

The study of Japan in Malaysia was minimal in the 1950s and 1960s. This was due in part to the fact that memories of Japanese colonialism were still fresh in the minds of many Malaysians. The feeling was that studies on Japan would only bring back unpleasant memories. But more significant was the fact that Japan was too busy rebuilding itself from the devastation of war to have much impact on Malaysia. When Japan began to impress the world with the speed and quality of its economic recovery, interest in Japan began to develop among local policy makers. Consequently, interest in Japan, both in academia and in the general public, took a quantum leap with the launch of Dr. Mahathir Mohammed’s Look East policy in 1982. From then on, Japan began to be studied not only because it was economically important but also as a model that Malaysia could emulate. As a result, the momentum increased for the establishment of a Japan Studies Program in the University of Malaya. The Japan Studies Program (JSP) at UM was set up in 1993 and later became incorporated into the Department of East Asian Studies which was set up in the 1996/1997 academic session. Gradually the JSP developed into a multidisciplinary program related to Japanese affairs. 


Korea, like China and Japan, gradually became significant in the Malaysian mind due to economic and political bilateral relations. Since the purpose of the DEAS is to offer country specialization, Korea Studies was established as one of the major programs of the department in 1996. Most Korean Studies programs abroad began by teaching Korean language and later expanded into offering multidisciplinary courses on Korea. Following the same trend, UM was the first university in Malaysia to introduce Korean Studies by offering Korean language courses in the middle of 1980s. This was followed by the offering of social science courses related to the Korean peninsula. These include courses on Korean business, history, culture, economics, international relations and foreign policy. The Korea Studies program at the DEAS, which offers a comprehensive multidisciplinary curriculum, remains the only one of its kind in Malaysia. With the increase attraction of Korean popular culture in Malaysia and Korea’s interest in ASEAN, the program serves as a conduit to better bilateral relations between Korea and Malaysia. 

Last Updated: 17/06/2019