WEAI mourns loss of Gari Ledyard

November 22, 2021

WEAI mourns the loss of Professor Gari Ledyard, who died peacefully at home on October 29, 2021 of complications related to Alzheimer's at the age of 89. 

Gari Ledyard was King Sejong Professor Emeritus of Korean Studies and Director Emeritus of the Center for Korean Research. He is the author of The Dutch Came to Korea (Royal AsiaticSociety, 1971), The Korean Language Reform of 1446 (Sin’gu Munhwasa, Seoul, 1998), “Cartography in Korea,” a book-length monograph with over sixty illustrations in The History of Cartography, Vol 2, Part 2 (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1994) and many other monographs, articles, and reviews related to Korean and East Asian history. He was Chairman of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures from 1980-1983, and was the founder of the Center for Korean Research in 1992. 

“I knew Gari both socially and professionally. As to the former, we were part of a poker group which met frequently and included EALAC and EAI faculty. Gari and I also used to jog together, meeting at 116th and Amsterdam, crossing the campus into Riverside Park and jogging from there to 95th street or thereabouts and then back. Gari was an active member of the East Asian Institute; he was instrumental in setting up in the institute the federally-funded language and outreach center. His was a dynamic presence in University and Institute seminars involving not only Korea, but also China and Japan. All told, he importantly contributed to shaping the institute as an academic community.”

—Myron Cohen, Professor of Anthropology

“Having joined the Columbia faculty two years after Gari did, I knew him throughout his career at Columbia. Though we were in different departments we were colleagues at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and over the years became close friends. There is a lot I admired about Gari: his dedication to scholarship on Korean history, his deep interest in Korea's relations with Japan—something that became the subject of many hours of conversation between us, his depth of knowledge and strong views about contemporary Korean politics, relations between South and North Korea, and US Korean policy. Gari's scholarship and his work to develop Korean studies at Columbia were driven by a deep affection and love for Korea. He has left a lasting legacy at Columbia and in the Korean studies scholarly community.”

—Gerald Curtis, Burgess Professor Emeritus of Political Science.

A full obituary is available here.