March 17, 1928 – June 15, 2014
Sek Yen Kim-Cho, Ph.D., a leading Korean language scholar and founder of the Korean Language and Culture Program at the University at Buffalo, died Sunday in her Williamsville home. She was 86.
Dr. Kim-Cho became widely known for her book, “The Korean Alphabet of 1446,” which examines the advanced phonetic system of writing called Hanguel, developed by Korean monarch Sejong.
She was given a lifetime achievement award from the University of the Nations International in 2008 for developing Nurigle, a modern phonetic script derived from Hanguel that can be adapted to many languages and used to promote literacy.
Dr. Kim-Cho founded the Sejong Studies Institute in 1998 and was its director.
She also established a Nurigle Research Center in Buffalo and a Nurigle Research Institute and Mission Center in Seoul, Korea.
Born in Pusan, Korea, she was the first woman to graduate from Seoul National University, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Korean language and literature, concentrating on poetry.
Dr. Kim-Cho became a lecturer in Korean literature at Seoul National University and first came to the U.S. in 1962-63 as a visiting research associate in the Department of Far Eastern Liguistics at Yale University.
Dr. Kim-Cho became a visiting research professor in the Department of Speech Science at UB in 1967-68, then came to UB for doctoral studies in 1971.
She returned to Seoul National University in 1974 to present her research papers on the Alphabet of 1446.
After earning her doctorate from UB in 1977, she joined the faculty in 1981 and became an associate professor in Korean language and culture.
She founded UB’s Korean Language and Culture program in 1995 and served as its director.
She had been a professor emeritus since 2003.
In 1998, she became an adjunct professor at Yanbyan University of Science and Technology at Yanji, China.
She authored five Korean language textbooks and published more than 20 major conference papers.
She received numerous grants and awards, including Korea’s President Award for her contributions to overseas Korean language education and the Nation’s Award from the Hanguel Society.
Survivors include her husband, Kah Kyung Cho, a distinguished teaching professor in philosophy at UB; a daughter, Christine S. Cho; and three grandchildren.
Services will be at 10 a.m. Friday in Buffalo Korean Presbyterian Church, 955 Sheridan Drive, Town of Tonawanda.