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

Korean By Birth But Kenyan At Heart

 

Jauquelyne Kosgei speaks to Prof. Yuhjin Park, the Korean Studies Professor at the University of Nairobi.

The Bridge: For how long have you been in Kenya?

Prof. Park: I have been in Kenya for exactly four years; I arrived at the end of August 2013. I started teaching at UoN soon after.

The Bridge: Having been in Kenya for four years, what can you say of your initial feeling and impression compared to your experiences over time?

Prof. Park: Not much has changed, really. At first, I was surprised to find a very blue sky and huge birds flying in the air. These are not things you will usually see in Korea, and I was very fascinated. Until now, I still find Kenya’s natural environment and weather very captivating.

The Bridge: Please tell us about your academic journey.

Prof. Park: I enrolled for my BA degree in Ewha Womans University in 2000. I did not graduate until 2006 though, as I spent one semester visiting Beijing, China, and a whole academic year focusing on extracurricular activities. I majored in Chinese Language and Literature, and minored in Korean Language and Literature and also in Asian Studies. For three years after my BA, I worked in Korean Broadcasting Station (KBS) as an assistant writer. I then went to Shanghai, China, where I taught Korean Literature to Koreans studying there. I then returned to my alma mater where I did my Master of Education between 2010 and 2012. Soon after, I applied for the post of KF Visiting Professor, and I was fortunate to be hired. And here I am.

The Bridge:  So, was teaching always your dream career? If not, when did you consider being a teacher?

Prof. Park: Actually, I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school. I always loved to read novels and poems. That is why I studied Chinese and Korean literature. In fact, I took more literature units than linguistic ones! However, teaching Korean Literature in Shanghai, I realised I could make a good teacher. I found it easy and fun communicating with students.

The Bridge: Talking of which, we talked to some of your students. All of them say you are an excellent teacher. What do you think you do that would make them see you so?

Prof. Park: Thank you! I think that is because I am friends with them besides being just a teacher. I have made them very comfortable with me, and I always have time to talk about their family, relationships, and sometimes their dreams and aspirations. That may be the reason.

The Bridge: What is the one thing your students do not know about you?

Prof. Park: Uh, nothing! I think my students know everything about me.

The Bridge: What is one day like for a teacher?

Prof. Park: In my case, I don’t go to school every day, but I would prepare handouts for my students, have a class for 2-3 hours, give a make-up class for those who need it, and sometimes have coffee or pizza with my students. For now, I am also writing a paper for an upcoming conference in Egypt.

The Bridge: What is the one expectation you have of (your) students?

Prof. Park: I expect them to study extra even without homework assigned to them. They are not primary or high school kids anymore, and should study independently. Also, as a language teacher, I don’t expect them to rely on Google Translate as a tutor, especially for basic expressions we have learned in class. Trust me, Google Translate can sometimes generate weird sentences, some of which I have received.

The Bridge: Having said that, what is the best thing about your students?

Prof. Park: Generally, I find my students very enthusiastic about Korean language and Korea in general. They are always excited and actually show up for Korean events like the Korean Film Festival, the Korean Food Festival, and the Korean National Foundation Day. They put so much energy into making these occasions a success, and I am happy about that.

The Bridge: It is obvious that you have blended into the Kenyan culture now, but what is the most shocking thing you ever observed in Kenya?

Prof. Park: I have gone to a few clubs here in Kenya, and I am still shocked about the dance styles here. Put simply, there is too much hip movement in Kenyan dance.

The Bridge: What hobbies have you adopted in Kenya?

Prof. Park: These aren’t new hobbies, really, but I love reading comic books and playing the violin. I also like playing mobile games, with Clash of Clans as my current favourite. I am actually the leader of my clan at the moment. I also love going on holiday sometimes, with Mombasa and Zanzibar being the best destinations to experience the Indian Ocean, and Maasai Mara the best reserve to observe the animal species.

The Bridge: What are your plans for the future?

Prof. Park: I plan to keep teaching at UoN for a few more years, which tells you that I am happy to be here. I am currently developing my doctoral thesis to be presented at UoN.