Chinese students show their love with hangul

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Chinese students show their love with hangul

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Contestants of the 7th Sungkyun Hangul Writing Contest hold up their submissions on the topic “love and hatred.” The contest was held at the Vision Hotel in Beijing on June 15. By Kim Hye-min

BEIJING ? Unlike her peers who came to Seoul because they were interested in Korea, Zhou Ruixia, a 20-year-old female student majoring in Korean at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, spent six months learning in a country many would not associate with studying abroad: North Korea.

“It is very hard to speak freely among North Korean people and practice speaking Korean. I would really like to study Korean in South Korea,” Zhou said.

As the Korean Wave sweeps across China, a rising number of hanguomi, Chinese fans of Korean culture, are showing interest in studying in Korea.

On June 15, 92 Chinese students majoring in Korean gathered in Beijing to participate in the annual Sungkyun Hangul Writing Contest hosted by Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul.

The top three winners will earn full scholarships to Sungkyunkwan’s masters program. This contest was started to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Korea and China in 1992, after years of political hostility.

One of the contestants is a Chinese student named Wu Xiaozhen, from Kunming, Yunnan Province, some 2700 kilometers (1,677 miles) southwest of Beijing. Wu wants to study comparative literature at a graduate school in Korea.

“This contest is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students like me,” Wu says. “I passed an intense in-school competition just to participate in this writing contest.”

Only eight students out of 556 participants from the last 6 contests are known to have matriculated at Sungkyunkwan graduate school.

This year’s gold medal went to Hu Wenqin from Shandong University in Shandong Province, eastern China.

For the topic, “love and hatred,” Hu used a story about her relationship with her grandfather to render to the complicated theme. Professor Park Jung-ha, a philosophy professor at Sungkyunkwan University and the judge for this contest, explained Hu’s selection for first place.

“Hu has successfully interpreted the Korean sentiment which can be highly unfamiliar to Chinese people and could have been easily misunderstood as the complete dichotomy in emotion.”

After winning first place, Hu said “I want to understand Korea better so that I can someday become a leader working for better diplomatic ties between the two nations.”

The contestants have shown great affection toward Korea. According to the survey by the JoongAng Ilbo, 84 students out of 92, or 91 percent, replied “they view Korea very positively.” Also, the following survey revealed that 59 percent picked “Korean Pop Culture” and 13 percent “Korean Commercial Brands” as the biggest factor that gave them such a positive perception of the country.

A 19-year-old contestant, Wang Jia, claims she has studied Korean for the past six years because she is a fan of Kim Jun-soo, a member of the Korean idol group JYJ.

However, there is growing concern about Chinese interest in Korean culture merely staying at the level of an individual activity. In China, it is very hard for people to enter a Korean company or to continue with higher education about Korea.

Even the Chinese students who participated in this contest added that “it is a widely acknowledged fact that the Chinese cannot move up above a certain level at Korean corporations.”

BY KIM HYE-MI [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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