Professor Im Dong-kwon is a pioneer in the field of Korean folklore, and is the primary figure in East Asian folklore studies. At the young age of 28, he became the primary lecturer for the first folklore course offered in South Korea at the Kukhak University in 1954. His research that began with the objective of reestablishing a national identity in the wake of the Korean War raised the awareness of Korean culture and fostered scholarship that established Korean folklore studies as an independent discipline.
While teaching and conducting research as a professor at the Sorabol Art College and Chung-Ang University, Professor Im served simultaneously as the Chairman of the Korean Folklore Society and the Society of Korean Folk Song. Further, he worked to discover and protect cultural treasures while serving as the President of the Baekje Culture Research Institute and the Executive Director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Cultural Properties, Korea. For these stellar achievements over many years, Professor Im has been awarded many national honors, including the Order of Culture.
Professor Im has not limited his research to South Korea, but extended it to Japan and China. He has conducted research into cultural interchange between South Korea, Japan, and China using the methods of comparative folklore, thus elucidating the unique aspects of Korean folklore. He is acclaimed as the preeminent scholar in East Asian folklore, having served in such positions as the Counselor to the Korean Comparative Folklore Society, at which he assumed the post in 1996. He has also trained other scholars in the field of folklore studies, who have since been engaged in many different activities in South Korea and Japan.
Originally specializing in traditional folk music of South Korea, Professor Im's interests have gradually expanded to cover a broad range of fields, including traditional oral literature, folkloric performance art, rituals, folk beliefs, and shamanism. He has published his research results in approximately 50 books that he has either written himself, written in collaboration with others, or edited. Of these, "Kankoku no Minzoku Taikei", Vol.1-5 and "Kankoku no Minzoku to Densho" have been translated into Japanese. One of his best-known early works, "Korean Folktales", is widely read throughout the world, as it was translated into German and English in the 1970s and into Japanese in 1995.
Professor Im, who spent his junior high school years in Tokyo during World War II, has close ties with Japanese folklore studies. In 1963, before the normalization of relations between Japan and South Korea, he began 40 years of folklore studies throughout Japan from Hokkaido to Okinawa, conducting joint research with Japanese scholars. He wrote "Kan-Nichi Minzoku Bunka no Hikaku Kenkyu" in Japanese himself, while Japanese translators worked on his Korean texts for such books as "Nihon no Naka no Kudara Bunka" and "Chosen Tsushin-shi to Bunka Dempa". These works are not simply comparative research studies of Japanese and Korean culture. They have been highly acclaimed for adding new interpretations to existing theories in Japanese cultural research by examining Japanese folklore from the perspective of South Korea.
In this way, Professor Im has conducted comprehensive comparative research into the folklore of East Asia with a focus on South Korea, and has contributed to the furtherance of joint research conducted by South Korea, Japan, and China as an internationally respected academic. For these achievements as a luminary in the field of East Asian folklore studies, Professor Im is highly suited to receive the Grand Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.