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Sek Yen Kim-Cho

Published June 26, 2014

Sek Yen Kim-Cho, a leading Korean language scholar and founder of UB’s Korean Language and Culture Program, died June 15 in her Williamsville home. She was 86.

Kim-Cho was widely known for her book, “The Korean Alphabet of 1446,” which examines the advanced phonetic system of writing called Hanguel, developed by the Korean monarch Sejong.

She received a lifetime achievement award from the University of the Nations International in 2008 for developing Nurigle, a modern phonetic script derived from Hanguel that can be adapted to many languages and used to promote literacy.

Born in Pusan, Korea, Kim-Cho was the first woman to graduate from Seoul National University, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Korean language and literature, concentrating on poetry.

A faculty member specializing in Korean literature at Seoul National University, she first came to the U.S. in 1962-63 as a visiting research associate in the Department of Far Eastern Linguistics at Yale University.

She became a visiting research professor in the Department of Speech Science at UB in 1967-68, and began doctoral studies at the university in 1971.

After earning her doctorate from UB in 1977, she joined the faculty in 1981 and became an associate professor in Korean language and culture.

She founded UB’s Korean Language and Culture program in 1995 and served as its director.

She retired from UB in 2002, becoming an emeritus professor the following year.

In addition to her position at UB, she also had served as an adjunct professor at Yanbyan University of Science and Technology at Yanji, China, since 1998. She founded and was director of the Sejong Studies Institute in Amherst in 1998.

She also established a Nurigle Research Center in Buffalo and a Nurigle Research Institute and Mission Center in Seoul, Korea, both in 2oo1, and served as director and co-director, respectively, of the organizations.

A prolific author, Kim-Cho authored five Korean language textbooks and published more than 20 major conference papers.

She received numerous grants and awards, including Korea’s President Award for her contributions to overseas Korean language education and the Nation’s Award from the Hanguel Society.

Survivors include her husband, Kah Kyung Cho, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor in the UB Department of Philosophy.