Ambassador Kwon Young-Dae

 

With Ms. Daisy Jemutai at the RoK Embassy offices, Nairobi.

By Daisy Jemutai

Amb. Kwon Young-Dae is the current Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Kenya. Alongside Kenya he is accredited to Somalia, Comoros and Mauritius. He has served for 3 years. His career spans from serving in the US, Iran, Germany, Brazil and now in Kenya. We paid him a visit and this is what he had to say.

So, who is Ambassador Kwon Young-Dae?

(Chuckles) I was born and raised in the country side of Chungcheong Province, South Korea. I am married and I have two boys, one is currently serving in the Korean military and the younger is studying here in Kenya. He is in 7th Grade. I graduated from Seoul National University having majored in History for my Bachelors Degree. I further went up the education ladder and got a Masters degree in Political Science at Georgia State University, USA.

What kind of activities do you engage in when not working?

I like different types of sports, especially Football, Soccer, Baseball and Basketball. Also, ever since I came to Kenya, I play golf nearly every weekend. When I have free time, I play the guitar as well. My other favorite hobby is playing the Korean traditional game called Go (usually played with black and white stones).

Having served as a diplomat for many years, how has your journey been?

Being a diplomat has enabled me to travel to different countries. I started out as a consul in the United States of America; at that time I was a Korean consul in general at Atlanta. I also worked at the Korean Embassy in Iran. I was posted to Germany and Brazil as well. This time I am serving in Kenya, where my post is accredited to 3 other countries too.

In what way have you benefited from your career?

Because I have been to several countries, I have been able to learn different cultures and  people. I have enjoyed being a diplomat; diplomacy has motivated and inspired me. I like it.

Growing up, did you have dreams of being an Ambassador? Why did you choose this path?

In my early years I thought of becoming a lawyer but later on discovered  I didn’t like some aspects of the legal  debate, somehow not in sync with my character. When I was in university, I wanted to become a professor until my 3rd year when I was drafted into the Army. After finishing my military service, I suddenly changed my mind and applied for  the Korean diplomat entry exam and subsequently became a Diplomat. My professor had recommended the exam, instead of being a professor which usually takes a lot of time.

What makes you wake up every morning?

Everyday my priority is to serve my nation and humanity. As a Korean diplomat I try to strengthen our national interest in order to serve my nation. I do my best. Service for humanity is also important. Nowadays my priority is in Environmental issues and Sustainable Development. Since the world is experiencing global warming and climate change, I would want to make my contribution to a better environment some day.

You have lived in Kenya for quite some time, which is your favourite Kenyan food?

Kenyan food would not be complete without ‘Nyamachoma’. It is very delicious and therefore my favourite. ‘Ugali’ is also good because it is similar to Korean Rice cake, though ‘Ugali’ is made from maize flour and Rice cake is made from rice. I also like chapatti.

On a light note, have you ever eaten ‘Githeri’ (beans and maize mixture)?

Yes I have eaten ‘Githeri’ and I liked it.

Which is your go to destination  in Kenya?

When we think about Kenya you think about Maasai Mara, which is one of the greatest African Wildlife reserves. When I went there I enjoyed the most spectacular Wild Ecosystem and the safari big games; especially the Wild Beast migration which is amazing. I have been to Amboseli National Park, which has a spectacular view of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Amongst the wild animals that you have seen, which is your favourite?

My favourite is definitely the Lion. The big five as well, especially due to the endangered species crisis amongst the big five. It is usually hard to find the leopard and the cheetah, and so we should preserve our endangered species. Another animal I like is the hyena, and more because of its behaviour like its hunting technique. Some people complain that hyenas steal food but they are intelligent and smart. At times they attack Lions all together, and therefore  through the hyena I  have learnt about cooperation (chuckles) which is very important when hunting.

Which tourist destination would you recommend to our readers if they decided to visit South Korea?

I fully recommend  Jeju Island. It is recognised as the best preserved area in Korea. Jejudo is the only island province in Korea. It is the most popular honeymoon destination site as well. It is known as ‘a little Hawaii’ for its balcony landscape, sub-tropical scenery and sand attraction. Jejudo has old texture cottage with walls made from lava, which offers a great chance for tourists to enjoy the Island’s unique pop culture. Also the sea food is  very delicious. Busan is also a popular tourist destination point, known for its beautiful sandy beaches. It is quite similar to Mombasa.

What would you like to tell our readers about the Korean Embassy?

I hope the relations between Korea and Kenya will be strengthened more. I hope that Kenyans and Koreans will be able to know each other more. That is why I try to promote cultural exchange and people to people exchange programmes. We live in different geographical areas so through exchanges we are able to know each other better. As the Korean Ambassador, I try to upgrade the bilateral ties between Korea and Kenya in the various fields. Now, I have given top priority to the ‘Big 4 project’ that was initiated by President Uhuru Kenyatta; affordable housing, universal health care, manufacturing and security, that is in line with the Kenyan government policy.

Lastly, any word of advice to our readers

I want to take this opportunity to tell all the young students that you have great potential. First, you should work very hard. To quote Mandela, ‘education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.’  You are young and therefore you can do anything. Do not give up but keep on working hard. It  will pay off and you will accomplish your dreams. Do not be afraid of failure,  for example to quote  Michael Jordan where he said that during his career he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots, and that is why he succeeded. And therefore even though you may fail, try to take lessons from your failures, be brave and do not be afraid of making mistakes. Challenges are important as they better you in future.

With President Uhuru Kenyatta, Image Credits: https://www.scoopnest.com

Photography: Joshua Nyantika

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.

Summer School in S.Korea

From the 26th of July to the 21st of August 2017, Virginia Chege attended summer school at Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul. She narrates her thrilling encounter.

South Korea, Seoul in particular, proved to be all and more than I thought it would be. I can honestly say it was the best time of my life. I attended a summer school program at Sookmyung Women’s University courtesy of Korea Foundation. It was a program aimed at teaching students from all over the world Korean language and Korean culture. Of all the twenty eight students who attended the program, two were from Africa; a lady from Senegal and I. This in a way caused me to stand out. Korean people were   fascinated by my hair, which technically was not mine given that I had plaited my head with braids. It was funny, a tad ironic, how excited they were when touching my hair.

I took two classes; Korean language and Korean Arts/Crafts. Since almost all the students were knew to the language, the lecturer resorted to teaching us by way of song and games. It was lots of fun but felt a bit like kindergarten. The Korean Arts/Crafts class stirred the creativity in me. I got round to making several jewelry pieces; from bracelets, rings, pendants to more others. I also learnt various threading techniques and metal cutting.

Throughout my stay, I enjoyed authentic Korean cuisine; samgyeopsal, bulgogi, tteokboki, kimchi, japchae, kimbab, bibimpap and mandu just to name but a few. Korean food was very spicy but I made do. I also tried many coffee drinks inspired by the serious coffee drinking culture in that country. The level of technology in Korea made life so convenient. All the systems ran very efficiently, from the transport system to the internet speeds. Using the subway to move from one place to another proved easy.

Korean people were  kind and willing to offer help, more so to foreigners. There is no limit to the number of fascinating places one can visit in Seoul. For a start, visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace was a great experience. The sense of history and cultural heritage   it hoisted  was wonderful. It is amazing how well  all the buildings within the palace have  been  kept all over the years. At the DMZ zone I  viewed North Korea from a distance. It was really nice to relive history going down the tunnel dug by the North Korean soldiers in an invasion strategy to South Korea. Later, we  experienced performing arts at the Nanta Performance at Myeongdong . Nanta is a theater performance where performers  use food as their props. Viewing various beautiful art pieces was a good way to unwind after class. We did this at the MMCA Art Gallery and the Seoul National Museum.

Chilling along the banks of Han River enjoying chicken (and beer for those who drank), known as ‘Chimaek’ was very relaxing. Of all the places, Lotte World Adventures was the best  I  visited. All the roller coaster rides, speed trains, air balloons and candy did the trick. If I could relive all those moments with all the amazing friends I made, I definitely would.

 

 

Korean Studies at the University of Nairobi

From the year 2010, the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS) supported a networking project that was run by the Faculty of Arts in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) at the University of Nairobi (UoN). Three years later, it gave way to the establishment of Korean Studies at UoN. Housed in the Department of Linguistics and Languages, Korean Studies admitted its first students in September 2013.

This course majorly entails teaching Korean language, literature, culture, philosophy, economics and history. There are two programmes on offer: a Certificate in Korean Language, Literature and Culture; and a Bachelor of Arts in Korean Studies. Most of the core courses are taught by Prof. Yuhjin Park, the Korea Foundation (KF) Visiting Professor to UoN. The certificate course covers only eight months and admits students from any field of study. It therefore has a huge student enrollment. There have been four classes so far, and the numbers have steadily been going up.

On the other hand, the BA course covers four academic years. In each of the eight semesters, students take at least two core units on Korean Studies. The first cohort of students will graduate on December 15, 2017. They will be the first to graduate with a BA in Korean Studies from an African University. The numbers admitted to the BA course have also been rising with time, as Korean Studies gains popularity each day.

This popularity is in part the result of the many extracurricular activities students of Korean Studies take part in. There exists a vibrant students association, the Korean Studies Students Association (KSSA). Students taking any programme in Korean Studies can register as members of KSSA. The association is student led, but has the KF Visiting Professor as the patron. KSSA members take part in at least one activity in a semester.

The Korean Studies students

From July through December 2016, the association had Korea in Our Village, an activity funded by the AKS. During this six month’s project, Korean Studies students interacted with the Korean community in Kenya, shared Korean language and culture experiences with pupils and students of different institutions in Nairobi, and learned a thing or two by visiting Korean companies and institutions in Nairobi and Limuru. Experiences from Korea in Our Village are published on a YouTube channel (Korea in Our Village) and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Koreainourvillage/.

Korea Quarterly Magazine is another KSSA project as members collect news on matters relating to Kenya and Korea. This magazine will run for at least one year, and is also funded by AKS. Such activities as this have solidly improved the state of Korean Studies in the university. They have also become avenues of marketing Korean Studies at UoN both to students and to the public community. As students like to study courses that are fun as well as promising, Korean Studies continues to become an option every year.

The main stakeholders of Korean Studies at the University of Nairobi are AKS, KF, and the Korean Embassy in Kenya. While AKS kick started the project, KF provides a Korean Language teacher among other academic support. The Korean Embassy, on the other hand, has always supported both academic and extracurricular activities in Korean Studies at the university. There have been three speech competitions and one Quiz on Korea, all organised and closely supported by the Korean Embassy in Kenya. Winners of these competitions walked away with huge prizes, including chances to visit Korea.

In recent times, a Korea Corner has been established at UoN. This is a Korean culture experience room prepared by the Embassy. It has provided the perfect place for other students and staff of the university to come in contact with Korean culture, hence boosting the image of Korean Studies. We have also had the support of Korean Companies in Kenya, like Samsung and LG which have opened up chances for students to work and learn more about Korea. KOICA has also given students a chance to go to Korea for a period of up to four months, in which they engage in an intense language programme.

 

University of Nairobi’s Korea Corner

Korean Corner is a room for Korean cultural experience established by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea to Kenya at the University of Nairobi back in 2016. Initially, the plan was driven by the dream to put up a teleconferencing room where E-classes for Korean Studies could be held. The sponsor, Korean Foundation, had in mind a room where students could enjoy Korean cultural exchange at its visual best. It is also meant to display the history of South Korea; as well as allow university staff and students of the Korean language to have a preview of the richness that Korean culture embodies. The corner hosts beautiful framed photos, ceramics, a humongous LG TV screen and masks that elaborately showcase the history and culture of the Korean people. Its establishment marked a milestone in bringing Korean culture to Kenya.

Upon entering the room, one is met by wall pictorials, each of which embodies the myriad aspects of Korean culture. At the entrance one is met by the hands of a lady strumming ‘Gayageum’, one of the most popular Korean traditional musical instruments. At the opposite is a bride in ‘Hollyebok’ resplendent ‘Hanbok’(한복), a display of the Korean traditional wedding gown. The attire’s multiple colours do echo the vibrant ceremonies the Koreans practice to today. Among the other framed photos is the ‘Four Seasons of Korea.’ What is captivating about this picture is the way each season is shown through its colours, giving the viewer a vivid imagination of how warm and sunny summer is; how fiery autumn can be; how beautiful and white snowy winter is; as well as the flowery splendour that is spring. Another highlight is the Hanok (traditional Korean house) painting that gives  much insight into the kind of housing that is native to Korea.

Koreans can use the room to display cultural items. There are different ceramic pieces themed ‘Inspiration from the soil’ exhibited in the room. They are in display courtesy of the collaboration between the University of Nairobi and Prof. Kim Sung-jin, a ceramist. Walled masks and miniature hanboks are also found in the room. All the pieces of art are a sight to behold. Korean Corner truly stands as a room for cultural exchange for all who visit.

Korean Studies Resource Center

A visit to the Korean office allows us to come across a rich library of books, journals, magazines, movies and music albums; each of which affirms the nature of Korean culture. Books range from history collections, poetry, cooking, food, politics, among other genres. If you’re preparing for a TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean), you’ll find books here. For anyone who wants to indulge in the onset and future of K-Pop and Hallyu wave, well, this resource centre has got a lot to offer. Needless to say, students and staff alike interested in any Korean culture can find a lot of material here.

The student handbooks are written in English and Korean to enable the student to study without having an instructor around. They come with audio CDs to give guidance for improved listening and speaking. Being a lover of K-Pop music, I find the growing in-size collection of K-Pop albums an attraction. EXO, TWICE, Block B, Beenzino, Crush, San E, Sam Kim, Wheesung, Urban Zakapa, Lee Hi among others can be found on the shelves. If these do not tickle your fancy, well; there is Korean traditional music and classical music to entertain. The library may be small in size but it has profound information that caters to the whims and needs of everyone.

Story By Eva Wanjiru

Photography by Joshua Nyantika