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Professor Shynne Gwang-hyun Leaves Behind a Noble Legacy and Heartwarming Memories

  • September 6, 2011
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professor Shynne Professor SHYNNE Gwang-hyun (Department of English Language and Literature) passed away due to cancer on July 24 this year.

A year ago, Professor Shynne taught a class for the University of Beijing’s summer session. His lecture was part of the BESETOHA (Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, Hanoi) Project, which is SNU’s ambitious plan to create a common academic culture among East Asian universities by exchanging lectures, hence achieving a higher level of academic standards. With his lecture, the BESETOHA project entered its execution phase after much planning since 2000.

At the University of Beijing, Professor Shynne, who won the prestigious SNU Teaching Award in 2009, taught “Korean Popular Culture and Social Change” in English, and Professor KIM Hie-joon of the Department of Chemistry taught natural sciences. The reason Professor Shynne chose popular culture as the topic for his first lecture was because he believed that “the everyday lives portrayed in popular culture are actually a historical-social compound artificially created.” With his first bold message, he initiated his first academic conversation among Chinese intellects.

“The students at the University of Beijing are serious, innocent, passionate, and unworldly. It would be good to mix them with SNU students. How great it will be for SNU and the University of Beijing to take turns in running summer sessions with a mixed class of students from both schools! I would really love to make this happen someday.” (2010.7.24. Professor Shynne’s minihompy)

Global Level Communication through the Classics

Professor Shynne, who adopted a psychoanalytic approach to literature, believed that the literary classics could contribute to a more profound level of global communication. Reading the classics of other countries, he believed, would enhance cross-cultural understanding, hence creating a better basis for global dialogue. Following this belief, he had been running a large-scale project that would contribute to global communication. Years ago, the oldest publishing company in Korea had a plan to update and revise their series “The Collection of World Classics” (published in 1975). It was a grand project to find and correct the outdated translations of the world classics and publish more up-to-date Korean versions. Professor Shynne was the chief manager of this project, in which prominent professors in the humanities participated. After a strenuous process, Professor Shynne started to produce results last year, five years into the project. “Today, when a capitalist form of literature has become globalized, the chance to communicate with other regions lies within the classics. This is why it is also important to translate Korean literature into English as well.” (Shynne, from an interview with Hankook Ilbo)
Professor Shynne was planning to publish 300 classics in 20 years.

Professor Shynne and his students How the Students Remember Him

SNU students are stricken with shock and grief over Professor Shynne’s early death. This is not simply because he was a great lecturer who always received more than 4.0 out of 5 on the students’ course evaluations. More than anything else, the students remember him as a warm and caring teacher. The solemn messages of reverence that were put up on the students’ online community, “SNU Life”, show how much the students looked up to him.

The postings show how Professor Shynne made every one of his students feel important, and how grateful the students were for it. The following are some of the descriptions of Professor Shynne posted by the students.

“A professor who remembers the names and faces of his students by the second lecture even in a large class of more than 60 students.”

“A teacher who manages an online community for his class and kindly answers every question for his students.”

“A teacher who answers even the most unrelated and abrupt questions like ‘How can I be good at English?’ with the most sincerity, reflecting on his own experience.”


The postings also show how generous he was to his students.

“He was a teacher who gave a scholarship to a needy graduate student out of his own pocket and say, ‘Come clean my desk someday and we’ll call it even.’”

“The teacher who told his students he’s sorry for postponing his appointment to buy them lunch, even when he’s being rushed to the emergency room.”

“The most caring teacher at SNU……”


Along with these touching comments, the fact that the messages of commemoration written on http://www.snulife.com were clicked on more than 15,000 times by students shows all the more how much he was revered by them.

A brief profile
Professor Shynne Gwang-hyun (1961-2011) graduated from SNU Department of English Language and Literature and received his PhD in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin. He was appointed to teach in SNU’s Department of English Language and Literature in 1994. He worked as the head of the Research Center for English Languages and Cultures, a subsidiary institute under the SNU Institute of Humanities, and as the vice editor-in-chief of the basic liberal education webzine “Open General Education”. In 2009, he won the SNU Teaching Award for developing a teaching system that let the students actively lead the discussions in the classroom.
Professor Shynne was an authority on medieval English literature, which was what he taught at SNU, along with Critical Theories. One of his most important works in medieval English literature is the publication “Allegory's Two Pulls: A Reading of St. Augustine's De Doctrina Christiana.”

Written by KIM Jaeseung, SNU English Editor   ?
Reviewed by Eli Park Sorensen, SNU Professor of Liberal Studies
Proofread by Brett Johnson, SNU English Editor
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