Teaching Korean Studies Through Teleconferencing

Ms. Anne with Prof, Kim

By Anne Achieng

Ehwa Woman’s University in Seoul, Korea and the University of Nairobi in Nairobi Kenya, are working together to promote knowledge on Korean culture. For the last two years, students at The University of Nairobi have had lectures from S. Korea through teleconferencing. In 2016, from May to August, the students learned Political Economy of Korean Development through a Lecturer from Ehwa University, Department of Political Science. In 2017, students were taught  Korean Social Political Philosophy by a lecturer from Sookmyung Woman’s University.

The mission and purpose of this program is to improve relations between Kenya and South Korea. More to it is to improve the knowledge about Korea. The courses are meant to expose students to other dynamics of Korea such as economy, literature, culture and other relevant Korean matters. The program runs for 11 weeks which is equivalent to 1 semester. The best performing student gets a chance to visit Korea for 1 month.

This year, the UoN students are thrilled about the program and have enrolled in large numbers. Julius Macharia and Bhavisha Patel, students from the 2017 class, say it is always an interesting experience learning about Korea through online. They also applauded the lecturers for their outstanding teaching.

The 2018 class is set to study Korean Economic Development by Pof. Kim Sei-Wan from Ehwa Woman’s University. He flew to Kenya for his first lecture. We caught up with him for a short interview. The class will run from January to April.

Bridge: Please tell us about yourself

Prof. Kim:  I am an Economics lecturer at Ehwa Women’s University in Seoul. I got my degree in the United States. I’ve also taught at California State University, Department of economics.

Bridge: Is this your first time in Africa? How do you find Kenya?

Prof. Kim: Yes, this is my first time in Africa. Kenya is a land of so much economic opportunities. I am here to lecture students and I am looking forward to a good time.

Bridge: For how long have you been doing the online class, is this your first time? Have you ever done it with other universities in other countries?

Prof. Kim: I have done online teaching for some time now; I have a lot of experience in this area. I’ve done online classes with the University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong, Bonn University in Germany, among others. I have years of experience in online teaching.

Bridge: What do you plan to achieve with the class of 2018?

Prof. Kim: I want the students to learn about Korea’s economic growth. Korea was poor, especially after the war but now 50 years later, it has grown to richness, currently being the world’s 11th largest economy. In this way, students can learn how Kenya can develop into a super power.

Bridge: From your observation of previous classes, how has this program been of benefit to those universities and the students?

Prof. Kim: The program has boosted knowledge about Korea and Korean economic society. This has led to rapid economic growth and a good relationship between countries.

Bridge: What advice do you have for students who’ll be taking the class?

Prof. Kim: I would like the students to read more about Korean history, culture and economy, outside what is taught in class. They can also read about the popular K-Pop.

Bridge: What’s your future expectation of this program?

Prof. Kim: I expect it to be given more chances to develop, reaching out to more countries in Africa and Asia. This will build a good relationship between countries and therefore boost economic growth.

Prof Kim at UoN

Photos: Joshua Nyantika

Working as Secretary of the Amb. of the Republic of Korea to Kenya

Kindly introduce yourself

My name is Elizabeth Wangari. I work at the Office of the Korean Ambassador (Embassy of the Republic of Korea to Kenya) as the Secretary.

How did you come to work at the Embassy?

I joined the Embassy in 2008. Prior, I had just completed my BA in Social work and Sociology at the University of Nairobi and was doing community work with NGO’s. Having seen the situation on the ground i.e. the frustration of working without funding, I wanted to work with a body that would be able to fund NGO’S . That is when I saw an opening at the Korean Embassy and applied.

What is your role as the secretary to the Ambassador?

My role is quite diverse; first, I am in charge of the Embassy’s Public relations. I handle official communication to the various Foreign Affairs Ministries accredited to the Embassy, which aside from Kenya include: Mauritius, Somalia and Comoros. The Ambassador in Kenya is extraordinaire a.l.a plenipotentiary, which means he is an ambassador based in one country but also serves all the other countries accredited to the embassy.

I facilitate communication from the Kenyan Embassy in Korea to diplomats. The diplomats then forward it to me, to which I send to the various ministries, International Organizations and other Embassies. Lastly I do secretarial work such as writing the Ambassador’s speeches and articles, knowing his schedule etc.

How has your journey been at the Korean Embassy

I have worked at the Embassy for 9 years and will celebrate my 10th anniversary this coming November. When I first came here I did VAT exemptions and daily reports about Kenya and the other countries accredited to the Embassy. Through the years I’ve risen to where I am, having served 4 ambassadors. I find joy in doing my work every day.

Is Korean Language the primary mode of communication at the Embassy

No. Operations are carried out in English. Any communication from Korea goes through the diplomats first, who then translate from Korean to English. They then forward it to me for distribution.

In that regard, do you know how to speak Korean Language

I have been studying Korean for a long time. At the Embassy there is a program tailor made for employees. However it runs during specified times and by the time we pick up with classes again it is hard to keep up. I have therefore been limited to basics.

Having worked at the Embassy for many years, has it impacted your life in any way?

Yes. I have learnt a couple of skills such as diligence and hard work. I have learnt to work fast and not take any short cuts. My sense of patriotism has also been reinforced having seen the way Koreans love their country. I also managed to do my Masters in International Relations.

At such a position, what is your greatest achievement at the Embassy?

Working on the establishment of Korean Studies Department at the University of Nairobi. During Ambassador H.E. Chan Woo Kim’s time, there was a program invitation to give funding to any Sub-Saharan Higher learning institution towards starting a Korean Studies center. I was asked to give my opinion and suggested the University of Nairobi. I was picked to handle the matter. After consulting with UoN, I sent the application to Korean Foundation. To cut the long story short, the department is up and running.

Korean companies/organizations tend to have ‘hweishik’ (dinning out with company members). Does the same happen at the Korean Embassy, and what is your favorite Korean Cuisine?

Yes, we usually eat Korean cuisine together as employees. Sometimes we do it at the Ambassador’s residence. My favorite food is ‘Bulgogi’ and ‘Bibimbap.’

Last year you went to Korea courtesy of the Embassy, tell me about it

I was honored by the Embassy with a chance to go visit Korea on a program that awards long-term serving employees. Together with other employees from different countries we went to various cities including Seoul. During the stay, we visited a number of cultural heritage sites and saw beautiful landmarks such as the Seoul Tower.

Having seen Korea first hand, what can you say about Korean Culture

It was great to experience their culture first hand. What fascinated me was one could leave their belonging anywhere and it could not be stolen. Koreans are well organized. I believe they took conscious  steps  to get where they are.

I saw a quote at the forefront of POSCO (Pohang Steel Co.) Company in Ulsan that I loved. It stated, ‘Limited resources but unlimited creativity.’ This is something we need to pick up as Kenyans.

Interview by Daisy Jemutai

 

 Chairing the Korea Community in Kenya

Mr. Kang on the left

We speak to the Chairperson of the Korea Community Association in Kenya.

Kindly introduce yourself.

My name is Mr. Kang SoonKyu and I am the current Chairperson of the Korea Community in Kenya. I came to Kenya with my family in 1994 after 2 years of working in Cameroon. Arriving in Kenya, I was quite surprised at what I observed. The climate, the development of cities and the well-built infrastructure were good compared to West Africa.

My company is Hankang Enterprises LTD. We deal with importation of Korean car parts.

I have served as the chairman of Korean community in Kenya for the last two years and will continue to serve for two more years.

Tell us a little about Korean Community in Kenya. When was it formed, and what are some of its key responsibilities.

Korean community in Kenya was founded in 1985. The purpose is to promote the development and welfare of Korean society through the ties and unity of Koreans in Kenya and also contribute to the development and friendship between Korea and Kenya.

How are you able to maintain that sense of togetherness as a community of Koreans? Do you have events where you meet or activities that you do together?

For the last two years, we have had singing and athletics contests for Koreans. We have also made a Korean address & telephone book to help us contact each other and interact more easily.

Sometime back, we help a photography contest and the winning picture was published in our calendars. A calligraphy contest was organized by the King Sejong institute at Kenyatta University that we had sponsored. Apart from interacting amongst ourselves in Kenya we also believe in giving back to the community we live in. For that reason we have sponsored the medical treatment of six disabled Kenyans are glad that we brought back some hope and joy into their lives.

What kind of work are most Koreans in Kenya doing?

There are about 1,300 Korean residents in Kenya, 60% of which work with missionaries & NGO’s. The rest are working in companies such as LG electronics, Samsung electronics, Sana industries (wigs), Solpia Kenya (wigs), other trading companies as well as travel agencies, restaurants, and construction companies. The missionaries and NGO’s are active in education, health care, agriculture, orphans care and many other fields.

What do you love about Kenya, and by large, what do you think most Koreans love about Kenya?

If you ask Koreans what they like about Kenya, the first answer would be the climate. The atmosphere is comfortable and relaxed unlike Korea where everyone is always in a hurry. The mix of different cultures also makes it a great environment for their children to study in. This allows them to not only master foreign languages but to also live with people from other cultures and different traditions, making them all rounded.

Do you enjoy taking Kenyan food?

I mainly eat Korean food but I indulge in Kenyan food from time to time. I usually eat ugali, managu, githeri but my favorite is nyama choma with kachumbari.

As a group, how do you relate with the Korean Embassy in Kenya. Have they been supportive?

The Korean embassy in Kenya is cooperative and we have had good relations. They work hard to make things more safe and convenient for us. The Korean Ambassador to Kenya Hon. Kwon Young Dae also takes part in various activities with our community, aside from his diplomatic duties.

What is your dream of the Korea Community in Kenya? Also, what do you hope for the future of Korea-Kenya relations?

Korea and Kenya are steadily developing a strong relationship in diplomacy, economics and culture which I believe will continue to grow in future. To accelerate the growth, we hope to restart the direct flights that had been stopped between Korea and Kenya. I hope Koreans will settle here and contribute to the development of Kenya and Korea.

By Bhavisha Patel

 

We Love Korea

We meet two ladies who are passionate about Korea. Let’s see what they have to say.

 Ms. SANJANA BHANSALI

Tell us about yourself?

My name is Sanjana Bhansali. I am a Psychology graduate from the University of Nairobi. I have been learning Korean language and culture for the last three years. I indulge in photography and happen to be a board game fanatic.

When were you first drawn to Korean culture. How did you come to love Korean dramas and K-Pop?

My first encounter was in high school when a friend pointed me to ‘‘Boys over Flowers,’ a then popular Korean drama. I noticed a lot of similarities with the Indian culture and therefore did not suffer culture shock. It was to be the beginning of a journey of endless K-dramas and as today I have watched 72.

Who are some of your favorite K-Pop stars and K-Dramas.

That’s tough! Just like any other fan I have an endless list of favorites. However, I’ll mention a few who have caused goosebumps! First, my dream man is EXO’s Kai. He is quite the heartthrob. Other than Kai, there are many other Kpop stars who have left their mark; Miss A’s SUZY, GOT7’S, Mark AND Jinyoung, MONSTA X’s leader SHOWNU and RED VELVET’S Seoulgi. The list goes on.

I binge watch K-dramas. The most outstanding to date are,’Boys over flowers,’ ‘the Heirs,’ ‘Kill me Heal me,’ and ‘Wang’s Family.’

How can you compare Korean culture to Indian culture. Care mention any similarities. And differences.

The relationship between India and Korea dates back many years. There is respect for culture and a trace of similar religion(Buddhism) in both societies. There are other similarities such as language, where the commonality of words as chai (tea), mother (omma/amma),father(appa/appa) are surprisingly similar.

You’ve done your Test of Proficiency in Korean language (TOPIK) and attained level 3. How has the journey been like? And what advice do you have for students or anyone willing to reach that level, or go beyond.

Achieving TOPIK level 3 was very hard and I obviously did not achieve it on my first attempt. Although I have not moved beyond level 3, I take pride in where I have reached. This is despite not having been to Korea even once. The journey was quite difficult with several hurdles. I used to practice past examinations and sample papers every day.

Well, when one experiences the language and culture in the real sense, the individual develops their grasp. I tried to use several methods to reach that level. The first thing I thought necessary was to identify my weaknesses in the exam. Upon realizing my weakness, especially in the exam’s writing segment, I resolved to put in the extra efforts. Nonetheless, I equally gave importance to other segments and at minimum did one paper every day.

I also tried to broaden my language grasp by reading Korean news articles and watching the K-dramas without subtitles. It allowed me to measure my improvement process. I also kept a separate diary and kept filling it with Korean vocabulary. I still add new words to date.

What’s next; what do you hope to use with your TOPIK 3? Do you plan to go study in S.Korea?

I am planning to apply for a scholarship to go study in S. Korea. Upon completion of studies, I also hope to settle there. The culture, the people and the national values that the country espouses, do attract me.

Ms. SEHRISH NADEEM

Tell us about yourself?
My name is Sehrish Nadeem. I specialized in counselling psychology at the University of Nairobi. I have a great interest in Korea language and Korean culture.

When were you first drawn to Korean culture. How did you come to love Korean dramas and K-Pop? 
I was introduced to Korean in my first year of studies and was immediately drawn towards it. My teacher Prof. Park would always encourage me. My speaking skills improved and  I eventually became fond of Korean dramas and the Korean culture.

Who are some of your favorite K-Pop stars and K-Dramas. And why?
My K-pop favorites are EXO, GOT7 and MONSTAX. They are extremely talented and passionate about music and their vast music styles never fail to impress me. My favorite K-drama is Goblin which has an amazing storyline and a line of brilliant actors.

How do you compare Korean culture to Pakistani culture. Care mention any similarities and differences?
Both cultures are similar when it comes to respect towards elders and superiors. The TV dramas in both cultures are very interesting. Pakistan does not have group singers however just like Korea solo singers are very famous internationally.

You’ve done your Test of Proficiency in Korean language (TOPIK) and achieved level 3. How has the journey been like? And what advice can you give students or anyone willing to reach that level, or go beyond?
The journey has been hard but it has taught me a lot. Reaching level 3 requires patience because while you are still studying you don’t know if you will succeed. Practicing for at least 2 hours a day and learning new grammars and vocabulary daily has helped me a lot. It is time consuming but practice makes perfect so it is important to take small steps daily to achieve a greater goal.

6. What’s next; what do you hope to use with your TOPIK 3? Do you plan to go study in S. Korea?
I plan to pursue my masters in clinical and counselling psychology in South Korea and I wish to achieve a higher level in TOPIK and hope to do so by studying much harder.

Experiencing Kenya

Taejeong Woo, known in Kenya as “Jay”, is a BA International Relations student at the University of Nairobi and an Intern at KOTRA Nairobi.

When did you begin your studies in Kenya?

I began my studies in June 2017. But because there were a couple of strikes, an election week and many demonstrations, I have barely studied yet. (Tears!)

What do you love the most about Nairobi?

Nairobi’s weather is the best in the world. The weather here has always made me feel so relaxed, ridding me all the stress from work and study. Breathing the air, the air breezing all over my face, is just my favorite thing!

What are some of the culture shocks you encountered upon landing in Kenya?

I had some shocking experiences. Upon my arrival in Kenya, I could not carry my entire luggage, so I asked for help from an employee at JKIA. He out rightly replied, “If you give me two dollars, I will help.” I wondered why he would ask for money to help me carry stuff within a short distance!

Another experience I had was being mugged in the taxi on my way to Westlands. A guy put his hand through the car window, grabbed my phone and ran away. I was SPEECHLESS. These are not culture shocks per se but rather a side of Kenya that I had not expected.

Do you get in touch with other Koreans in Kenya? Are you close?

Yes, I met a few Koreans. Since there are only two Korean students in University of Nairobi, I barely get the chance to get close to many. But, I have met some Koreans from the Korean Church in Kenya and we are quite close.

What advice do you have for Koreans who would want to study or visit Kenya?

At UoN, there are some Professors who are frequently late to classes for almost an hour. I guess this is called “Kenyan time”. Also, there are times when we can write notes for three hours non-stop. And then the black outs!

Surprisingly, UoN students do not rely   too much on anyone, neither professors nor school to get things done. Even if they don’t have proper textbooks for themselves, they will find a way out. When there is no electricity, they will pull out their phones, light them with the passion to learn. They find their own way to study rather than taking a back seat and making excuses.

These things I have learned here and I can only call them “legit Kenya”.  Here, in Kenya, you might face one of the most unbearable difficulties that you wouldn’t want to encounter. However, you will learn more after overcoming them. You will see yourself grow up. You will see the real Kenya. You will get people to help you from the beginning of your journey.

So, why not pay a visit?

JUSTICE KITAEK LEE

The late of August 2017, Justice Kitaek Lee (이기택),  a senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Korea visited Kenya. We met him and had the following interview.

Is it your first time in Kenya? How about Africa?

It is my second visit to Africa and my first in Kenya. I visited Egypt a while back.

Why did you come?

Africa is not well known in Korea so my interest came out of that realization. In addition, I personally see Kenya as a key African representative. With regards to my work, it was a dream of mine to meet students in the legal field receiving education to lead Kenya’s future entities. I had also heard about Korean studies being offered abroad in rare places, especially in Africa and was therefore curious to visit the University of Nairobi, Korean Studies department.

How do you find Kenya’s judiciary compared to the Republic of Korea’s judicial system?

Right now I don’t have a lot of understanding on the Kenyan judiciary but in Korea the court decides on its own working budget. The courts decide on their expenses by themselves in an independent manner. However, the Kenyan courts are governed by a committee when  they want to pay something. The committee makes decisions on court budgetary matters.

What are some of the comparisons you’ve been able to observe between the two countries’ judicial systems?

The two countries have a history of colonization and although negative, we cannot really do anything about it. I want to see both countries work fiercely to keep the principles of an independent judiciary.

Are there some areas where Kenya and Korea can cooperate to improve their respective judicial systems.

Korea is collaborating with a lot of countries at the moment including Kenya by learning from each other’s advantages. I think it is also a good opportunity to help Kenya in the process of teaching law since Korea is advanced in legal matters. The two countries could legally and positively use each other’s advantages in carrying out business together.

For example, from a personal experience, there was a case in 2002 where the Code of Civil Procedure was amended (it is still being implemented). The process of that amendment had begun through some groundwork that was made in 1995. What I had wanted was to learn from as many countries with more knowledge in Code of Civil Procedure as possible and who could introduce it to Korea. But then I only managed to get information from a few countries because it was so difficult to get it, as the other countries were somewhat cautious and reluctant. Suppose Kenya and Korea work together on developing the Code of Civil Procedure and I take all of Kenya’s good points and put them in the Korean law then later it will not be good so I think this is part of the reason why I only managed to get help from a few countries.

You’ve come at a time when the Kenya’s Supreme Court has just cancelled the presidential elections, a milestone for any African country. What are your thoughts about the transformation of Kenya’s judicial system?

No comment. There are political laws that apply for every country, and there can be issues with these particular laws everywhere. I just hope people can learn from it and get better.

From the talks you’ve had with the faculty of Law at the University of Nairobi, and the interactions you’ve had with some of their students, how can you compare Kenya’s legal education system and that of Korea?

Until 2008 Korea used to use the undergraduate system similar to Kenya’s but in 2009 we switched to the American graduate school system, and hence the differences. From my meetings with the UoN law students, I personally felt the students were very advanced about legal matters. I was very moved.

Are there any areas you think Kenya can emulate Korea on judicial matters?

Korea underwent a lot of changes and development in a short period of time. In these changes, it included the judiciary positively changing the society. So in Korea’s judiciary, there is this helping ability. Kenya’s may also have or develop a similar helpful ability.