This moving and eloquently-written Korean-language essay was written by Dr. Geun Soon Kim Lee, one of the founders and heads of The Korean Language Center of New York and The Korean Heritage School for Adoptees. The essay, which is written in Korean, is titled "한국어와 나 (The Korean Language and I)," and will be featured in a forthcoming edited book that RCKC has been working on about individuals who have worked hard to promote the Korean language and Korean-language education in the United States.

Dr. Geun Soon Kim Lee has a long history with Korean language education. She received a BA in Library Sciences at Yonsei University in Seoul, where she went on to become a lecturer in the Korean Language Institute. She earned a doctorate (Litt. D) in Library Sciences from Ankara University in Turkey in 1975. In 1978, with her husband, Dr. Sungun Lee (who is another extremely important figure in Korean language education), she started teaching Korean in the United States. In 1984, she became Principal of the New York Broadway Korean School, which has since changed its name to the Manhattan Korean School, where she highlighted the importance of conversational Korean. While she was the Principal, the school became very well-known for its outstanding faculty and emphasis on teaching methods and pedagogy. She and her husband, Dr. Sungun Lee, are the founders and heads of The Korean Language Center of New York and The Korean Heritage School for Adoptees. Additionally, she is President of the Northeast Chapter of the National Association for Korean Schools, Vice President of the National Association for Korean Schools, and is a former instructor of East Asian Studies at New York University.

Below is a short excerpt from her essay:

새 학기를 시작하는 첫날 7명의 학생들이 둘러 앉아 인사를 나누며 자기 소개를 한다. 이 교육원은 뉴욕 맨해튼 32 Korea Town에 있다. 한국어를 처음 배우는 학생들이어서 아래의 대화는 물론 영어로 오고 간 말이다. “제임스 씨는 왜 한국어를 배우려고 해요?” 키가 아주 크고 머리가 노란 30대의 백인 남성이 “ 저는 미국사람인데 제 약혼녀가 한국사람이에요. 한 달 후에 결혼식을 해요. 약혼녀의 부모님이 한국에서 오시는데 영어를 못 하세요. 그래서 제가 한국어를 배워서 대화를 하려고 합니다.” 자기는 회사원이라고 한다. 또 다른 여학생에게 “아끼 씨는 왜 한국말을 배워요?” 라고 하니까, 자기는 일본인 작가이며 한국친구도 많고 한국 드라마를 아주 좋아한단다.

 

Published in Qualitative Data

We have posted a Korean-language essay by Dr. Sun Gun Lee, the Director of the Korean Language Center of New York (which is affiliated with the Korean Culture Research, Inc.). He is also the Executive Director of the Korean Language Association, and the former President of the National Association for Korean Schools, Northeast Chapter. He received his B.A. and M.A. in Korean literature at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea, and he received his Ph.D. in linguistics from Ankara University in Turkey in 1973.

After he came to the United States in 1975, Dr. Lee has worked tirelessly to teach the Korean language to U.S.-born Korean Americans and to non-Korean Americans. In particular, he has taught Korean language and customs to many Korean adoptees and U.S.-born Korean adults who have faced discrimination from fellow Koreans because of their lack of mother-tongue fluency. He has been able to do this with little monetary compensation for nearly forty years because of his strong love and affinity towards the Korean language. Among his many contributions to Korean language education, he has worked hard to promote the Korean language in American high schools and has participated in making Korean textbooks. In 2004, he also established the Korean Heritage School of Adoptees. As the name of the school suggests, it focuses on expanding Korean language and cultural education for young Korean adoptees. In this essay, Dr. Lee describes these experiences as a Korean language teacher in great detail.

Below is a short excerpt from Dr. Sun Gun Lee's essay:

"한국어반이 개설되고 3년 후, 두 학교로부터 한국어반이 성공적으로 운영되고 있다는 기쁜 소식을 전해 들었다. 첫 학기에 26명이었던 팰리사이드 파크 고등학교의 한국어반 수강생은 2년 후 115명으로 증가하였고, 릿지필드 메모리얼 고등학교의 한국어반 수강생은 첫 학기 36명에서 2년 후 80명으로 늘어났고 초등학교 4,5학년 전 학생 240명도 1주일에 한 시간씩 한국어 수업을 받고 있었다. 이는 기적과 같은 놀라운 발전이었다. 동포들의 도움으로 한국어정규과목채택 추진회가 후원금을 모금하고, 한국정부에서도 지원금을 보내준 결과, 우리 한인 2세들뿐만 아니라 미국 학생들도 한국어를 배울 수 있게 된 것이다." 

Published in Qualitative Data

I was casually watching the NBC Today Show when, suddenly, images of African Americans shouting “Go home! Go home!” at a middle-aged Asian man standing inside a store appeared. The anchor, Lucky Severson, reported that the Korean-owned store, “Family Apple Grocery Market,” was being boycotted by the black community. It was April 1, 1990, some 23 years ago, an event that spread to several more Korean grocery stores in Brooklyn and lasted until January 1991, when the owner of the store sold it to another Korean.

Even more dramatic pictures appeared exactly two years later, during the week of the LA Riots in April 1992. The image of two young Korean men holding rifles on the roof of a store, trying desperately to ward off looters, is ingrained in my mind. About 2,300 Korean-owned stores were destroyed during the riots. Korean merchants absorbed about 40% of total riot damages. Due to their language barrier and lack of political power, Korean merchants did not receive protection from law enforcement agencies, and Korean victims received little compensation from government agencies.

 

 

Published in Qualitative Data

The following Korean-language literary essay was written by Ms. Jane Cho (her Korean name is 황정숙/Hwang Jung Sook). Ms. Hwang is a Korean-language teacher at Palisades Park High School in Palisades Park in Bergen County, New Jersey. She completed her college education in Korea at a teachers’ college by specializing in the Korean language as a foreign language. She had worked as a Korean-language teacher for about 15 years in the New Jersey area before she found a full-time teaching position at Palisades Park High School in 2010. While teaching Korean language for the Korean Studies Program at Rutgers University, she started her Korean-language teachers’ certification program (master’s degree) in 2008 with a scholarship from the Korean Language Association (of New York) and the Korean government. As soon as she completed the program in 2010, she found a teaching position at Palisades Park High School. She still maintains her position as the associate principal at a Saturday Korean-language school in Bergen County. Ms. Hwang is also a well-established essayist. She won the first-place award in the Essay Contest for Overseas Koreans organized by the Cyber School of Kyung Hee University (in Korea) in 2010.

Korean Americans compose the majority of the population in Palisades Park, where her high school is located.  Palisades Park may be the only neighborhood in the U.S. where Korean Americans comprise the majority of the population. Since the early 1990s, they have established a Korean business district in this suburban Korean enclave. By virtue of numerical dominance, Korean Americans have had a strong influence in Palisades Park. Jason Kim, a Korean American, was elected as a City Council member in Palisades Park in 2005. He was the first Korean to be elected as a city council member in any municipality or city in the New York-New Jersey area. Currently, two Koreans hold the two top City Council positions among six City Council members.  A monument commemorating Korean “comfort women” (sexual slaves of the Japanese military during the Pacific and Asian War) was installed in front of the City Hall of Palisades Park, further testament to Koreans' influence in the area. 

Korean students compose 45% of the student body at Palisades Park High School. Korean Language Association, created to promote the Korean language as a foreign language to elementary and secondary schools in the New York-New Jersey area in 2007, targeted Palisades Park High School as the first school in New Jersey to teach the Korean language (of course, there were already several elementary and high schools in New York City that had offered Korean as a foreign language before). As a result of Korean-language leaders’ and Korean parents’ persistent lobbying activities and their and the Korean government’s financial support, the high school began to offer Korean as a foreign language in 2010 and hired Ms. Hwang as the Korean-language teacher. According to Ms. Hwang’s essay, the school started the Korean-language program with about 30 students in three classes in 2010, but soon afterwards, the program grew to over 130 students in six classes. In the first two years, the Korean community and the Korean government covered the teacher’s salary. However, since 2012, the Palisades Park School Board has covered the expenses.

In this moving literary essay, Ms. Hwang describes her passion and excitement as a Korean-language teacher at Palisades Park High School, which is a public school. We can see from the essay that teaching Korean at an American high school entails much more than a regular teaching profession (which is challenging and strenuous in and of itself). Every day, she works hard to teach both younger-generation Korean students and American students the Korean language, Korean history, and culture. To stimulate interest in her Korean-language class, she combines many Korean cultural activities, including making gimbap (seaweed rolls), practicing calligraphy, drawing traditional Korean cartoons, playing samulnori (traditional Korean drumming), making Korean fans, jegichagi (a Korean version of hacky-sacking) and so forth.  On the first New Year’s Day, she prepared ddeukguk (rice cake soup that is traditionally eaten for New Year’s) at home and served ddeukguk for 30 students. She also took bulgogi (Korean barbecued beef) and japchae (Korean vermicelli noodles with meat and vegetables) to school for the students.   

 

Published in Qualitative Data

 

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