Prof. Cho Dong-il is an eminent scholar of Korean literature. One of his major works, the six-volume Hanguk munhak tongsa (A Comprehensive History of Korean Literature) is regarded as a monumental landmark in Korean literary studies. However, his academic interest extends far beyond the national border to the entire zone where Chinese characters are used, and he is also acclaimed internationally as a leading scholar in comparative literature and civilization, with such publications as Dong Asia munhaksa bigyoron (A Comparative Study of East Asian Literary Histories) and Dong Asia munmyeongron (A Theory of East Asian Civilization).
Prof. Cho graduated from one of the most prestigious universities in Korea, Seoul National University, and received a Ph.D. in literature. Since 1968, he has taught as a professor for more than four decades, at Keimyung College, Yeungnam University and Seoul National University, and at the same time, has lectured at a dozen major Korean and overseas (Japanese, Chinese and French) universities. It is said that no scholar in Korean literature, whether established or novice, who has not been influenced by him.
Prof. Cho began his academic work with research on classical Korean oral tradition, and expanded his interests to embrace medieval Chinese literature, Korean classics and modern literature. The results of these researches have been compiled in Hanguk munhak tongsa（A Comprehensive History of Korean Literature）, published in 1982 - 1988. This work has particular significance in the history of Korean literary studies, because he introduces his own idea about historical periodization - based on literary history rather than traditional political divisions - in order to examine the course of Korean literary history dynamically in a new sequence, with a comprehensive approach involving social history and the history of ideas. The significance of the work was recognized by its being chosen as one of 26 Korean representatives in the 100 Books on East Asian Liberal Arts by the East Asian Publishers' Conference (2011).
Although the first sign of his mastery of comparative literary history was apparent in Hanguk munhak tongsa (A Comprehensive History of Korean Literature), its full development was presented in Dong Asia munhaksa bigyoron (A Comparative Study of East Asian Literary Histories) (1993). In this book, he compares the literary histories of Korea, Japan, China and Vietnam - countries belonging to the cultural zone defined by Confucianism and Chinese characters - and tries to identify individual national particularities and universal principles. It was translated into Japanese in 2010, and has attracted many Japanese readers.
Since he was young, Prof. Cho has also had a special interest in the East Asian civilization that shares Chinese script, Confucianism and Buddhism as a common heritage for the countries in the region. This subject became his principal interest after he retired from full-time teaching, and the fruit of the work is his Dong Asia munmyeongron (A Theory of East Asian Civilization) (2010). Here he encourages development of "East Asian studies" and an "academic community of East Asian studies".
Prof. Cho’s outstanding achievement is not only in the area of Korean literature but also in comparative literature and civilization in East Asia, and he is still actively pursuing these subjects. For this distinguished contribution, Prof. Cho is very worthy of the Academic Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.