An opening ceremony for the Ewha’s Bioethics Policy Research Library (BPRL) was held on September 30, 2008 in Ewha Centennial Library with the presence of President Lee Bae-yong and Kwak Young-sook, the director of Bioethics and Safety division in the Korean Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs (MIHWAF).
On July 2006, the MIHWAF selected Ewha among many other universities and designated Ewha Institute for Law & Bioethics as Bioethics Policy and Research Center (BPRC). Establishing the BPRL was part of the research center’s vital development venture to provide researchers, officials, and civilians with valuable information on bioethics issues and policies relevant to them.
Launching the BPRL holds special significance both for Korea and Ewha since it is the first library specializing in bioethics built in Korea and Asia. Na Eun-young, the librarian of BPRL comments on this meaningful establishment. “There are only three bioethics libraries in the world—Kennedy Institute of Ethics in the United States, DRZE in Germany which is organized by German Reference Center for Ethics in Life Sciences and finally, BPRL in Ewha.”
Currently, the library possesses about 2500 separate volumes, over 20 academic journals and 100 screen data on bioethics. Since the academic field of bioethics requires professional background knowledge, main users of the library comprise of researchers and students who major in bioethics.
However, Mo Hyo-jung, the researcher of Database Management Team of BPRC says that ordinary students also visit the library. “Those ordinary students visit here out of curiosity since it is the first bioethics library in Korea or they were recommended to take a look around by their professors while enrolling in life science related subjects,” says Mo.
But Mo still believes that students need to have more interest in bioethics and the library itself since the field of bioethics is closely related to our lives in some ways. “Bioethics is very much related with the women and our daily lives since a large section of the study involves pregnancy, abortion and childbirth issues,” says Mo.
Located in room 560 of the Ewha Centennial Library, BPRL requires students to go through a special measure before borrowing books from the library. Students must register themselves as members in the official homepage of BPRC (http://bprc.re.kr) prior to their visit to the library. When they are given an ID (identification), they can check on the homepage’s electronic library section and find out whether the book they wish to borrow is available. When the book is marked as ‘lent out’ or ‘being rearranged’, students must reserve the book on the homepage.
Na says that the library is undertaking several measures to expand the facilities and its services. “The English homepage of the BPRC is under major reconstruction to suit the better needs of many foreign professors in Ewha and researchers in Korea. The homepage will be updated with a huge amount of research papers and the process will be completed around this November.”
Also, one of the vital businesses the BPRL is conducting now includes the translation of Korean bioethics statutes and research papers. Initially, bioethics statutes had been translated by the Office of Legislation. However, the office often made mistakes in translating technical terminologies due to insufficient professional knowledge in the bioethics field. So, BPRC has started the professional translation jobs from the year 2007. The finalized contents will be uploaded in the renovated English homepage of BPRC.
Having achieved its nominal value as the Asia’s first library specializing in bioethics, Ewha’s BPRL has a more ambitious aspiration. “Bioethics is closely related to human’s daily lives. But it is not easy to comprehend the bioethics culture of another country since diverse philosophical and cultural backgrounds unique from country to country hinder the common understanding of bioethics,” says Mo.
“The BPRC and the library’s final ambition is to stabilize our position as the heart of bioethics research in Asia and inform the West about Asia’s cultural background in bioethics. Asian countries hold familial values as very important qualities, so the Western researchers are becoming more interested in studying bioethics of Asian countries. That way, BPRC can globally publicize Asian bioethics and incorporate oriental values in studying the field.”
caption: The Ewha bioethics library is the first library in Asia specializing in bioethics.