Thursday, 18 December 2008

All there is to Korean culture

I’m not sure if it was the Gyeonggi Education Department or our city’s program, but yesterday we were treated to “Korean Culture”. 5000 years of history and all you have to show is kimchi and pottery?

No doubt the program was sincerely intended to show us more about Korean culture, and the whole day was quite fun, but sometimes I wonder if Koreans actually know what their own culture is all about. Do they not realize that watching TV on tiny screens on the bus/subway, playing games at the PC bang all day and boiling it up at the Jimjil Bang or Baths are as much part of Korean culture as kimchi is? Would it not be more useful for us to learn more about the history and use of these? Show me ONE teacher who has been here more than a month who has not heard about the whole history of kimchi. Now that I think about it, they never tell us that chili is a comparatively recent addition.

Would it not be more useful for the Provence to work on setting up language schools to teach us the Korean Language? Would we not learn more about Korean culture if we were able to experience it directly with the use of said language? When one of the English teachers asked if there was a place in town where we could study Korean, we were told that we had to ask our school’s teachers to teach us. Really?! You mean they don’t have their own jobs to do? They don’t have homes to go to? You mean that the Korean English teachers are, by default, also excellent teachers of Korean as a foreign language?

Someone was kind enough to start teaching me Korean. She is doing it twice a week and she is doing it free of charge, but we can’t expect others to do the same. How many of US will teach someone free, twice a week, with no ulterior motives? She is married with children and I have a girlfriend, so no sport will ensue from the lessons, only new language abilities. OK, OK. She is learning how to teach Korean and she is actually learning a lot of English from teaching me, but somehow I don’t think that was her goal.

Back to the “Cultural” Day. We were taken to a kimchi factory to experience making kimchi and dumplings. If you have ever been to an after school cooking class, then you will know you don’t learn much. You get most of your ingredients pre-measured, if not already mixed as well. To make the dumplings we only have to scoop the fillings and fold the dumplings. That was it. To make the kimchi we only had to spread the mix on to the already salted cabbage and we were done. If I was asked to make dumplings or kimchi today I would not have a clue where to start.

The pottery lesson was much better. We started from scratch and made or own, well, rubbish. After we did the basics they took our pots, put the clay on the spinning wheel and basically redid the whole thing. It seems a bit senseless, but without that help 95% of our pots will crack in the kiln. This way most of us get a nice little souvenir.

The biggest highlight was this photo. Not only is the company names White Tour, but there is a Foreign Tourist On Board sign in the window. What on earth is that sign about?

All in all the day was fun and I got to meet up with the old and new faces in town. No doubt next time the whole thing will be much better. This was their first try, after all.


Jason said...

I'm very curious . . . did they take photos of you along with everyone else when you were making kimchi?

If they did you left out an integral motivation for sending you to 'learn about Korean culture.'

Also, no one in this country seems to realize that teaching Korean language requires a TKFL methodology that doesn't even exist (Teach Korean as a Foreign Language as opposed to TEFL). I went to a Korean class once organized by Incheon city hall. The Korean woman was a volunteer without any kind of teaching certificate--it was murder. I left quickly after having to prompt her to repeat instructions, use some English to explain things, and use the whiteboard to write things out that she was telling us to do . . . .

Good luck with your tutor--it sounds a billion times better.

Otto Silver said...

Oh, of course we were the photo opportunities. I even mentioned it the day I first heard about the event:

I actually discussed the Korean Classes with my co-teacher today. She mentioned getting someone qualified and my first reaction was "There is a qualification for Teaching Korean as a Foreign Language?"

I asked a few other people as well and apparently there is a women here who used to be a teacher and now offers classes. I want to get her information and attend a class. If it seems OK then I will gladly do some advertising for her.

Yongbo said...

Good day, mate. I happened to find your blog by searching and sneaked a peak at it(sorry, lol). You've got some interesting blog-content going on, for sure. Well, I'm a Korean dude currently living in the states, by the way. Good luck teaching English over there.