Korea studies workshop brings U.S. teachers for tours, lectures

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Korea studies workshop brings U.S. teachers for tours, lectures

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Students in the United States don’t learn much about Korea ― at most, the country’s history and culture will have three pages in a middle- or high-school textbook, alongside a brief mention of the Korean War and a short description of South-North relations.
Educational institutions here, however, say they’re going to change that.
Sponsored by the Korea Foundation and organized by the Graduate School of International Studies at Yonsei University as well as by the Institute for Modern Korean Studies, a two-part workshop ― the first part from July 6 to 17, and the second from July 27 to August 9 ― titled “Korean Studies Workshop for American Educators,” has been educating about 100 history and social studies teachers from the United States.
The institute was established in 1997 to support research in topics such as modern Korean political history and Korean-American relations. It provides lectures, seminars, visits to historic and industrial sites, including the headquarters of Samsung Electronics, so that teachers have a chance to see the economic and cultural progress of the country.
During the first lecture, given by Kim Hyuk-rae, the director of the workshop and a professor of Korean Studies at the Graduate School of International Studies at Yonsei University, the visitors shot out a barrage of questions, on such topics as sex education in Korean schools, women’s participation in the workplace and the country’s outlook for economic growth.
One female teacher asked about the average age Koreans lose their virginity. Mr. Kim answered, “Korea is still very conservative. In middle and high school, it is still very rare for students to be sexually open,” and pointing out the how Korean society is both traditional and economically advanced.
The workshop also touched on topics such as the rise and fall of Korean conglomerates and the South Korean policy for unification, as well as Korean art and traditional music. In another seminar, “Korean Traditional Music in the 21st Century: Contexts and Prospects,” given by Nathan Hesselink, a professor at the University of British Columbia, little known facts, such as the ban on traditional Korean music during the Japanese occupation (1910-1945), were mentioned.
Professor Park Soon-yong’s lecture, “General Introduction to Education in Korea,” delved into the development of education in Korea. The lecture focused on how modern schools in Korea were introduced in the late 19th and early 20th century by Christian missionaries and Korean intellectuals. Also, after liberation from Japanese colonial rule (1945-1950), “Korea adopted a school system based on the American model and administered free compulsory education up to the sixth grade.”
The 11-day program (with around 50 teachers participating in each part) also included trips to old and new destinations in Seoul, such as visits to Gyeongbok Palace, the National Folk Museum and even a performance of “Nanta,” the popular musical cooking show. As this is the first time for the Korean Studies Workshop, Mr. Kim said, “We hope it is the first of many more to come.”


by Cho Jae-eun

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