I have just finished teaching my last semester in Korea. I am thankful for the experience. Everyone was very kind and open to my involvement. Who knows? Maybe, there will be an academic life in my future. You never know. For now, I can say I enjoyed helping students become more confident English speakers. It was fun to watch them plan a vacation to an English speaking country, debate, and make films as funny as "Dooyoung Blaine: Younger Brother of David" and "Does Bungee Jumping Make You Taller?"
The humor was as fun to be part of as the many serious discussions we've had this semester, from the controversial image-based questions about why people follow trends and diet, to the problems with environmental pollution. Sometimes I brought these issues to the forefront; and, at other times, they were raised by student presentations. On one such occasion, Team Greunchel (pictured above), brought up the issue of homosexuality and its acceptance within Korea. Through a series of surveys and experiments, the team unveiled a country full of misgivings.
I certainly didn't expect a conservative country like South Korea to rank high as a homosexually-friendly environment, but I was surprised to see just how far the country was from such a proposition. According to the students' surveys (pictured above), 87% of those questioned said no one among them was openly homosexual. In addition, 87% said they would not be able to be friends with someone who was a homosexual. To top it off, nearly 98% of students questioned felt that they would not be able to adapt within Korean society if they were a homosexual.
Other presentations included impersonations of yours truly (see Seung Boom pictured above), personal love stories, and ten pieces that dealt with the pressures of Sooneung, sometimes referred to as the Korean SAT.
"[South Korea] changes flight schedules, adds extra buses, and delays stock market openings [so test takers are not interrupted on the day of the exam]" Min Jeong, the narrator in the clip (above), explains."Some students even kill themselves trying to deal with the [stress of taking the exam]."
The Korean SAT, or Sooneung, is an exam that dictates the future school, status, and job a student will have upon high school graduation. Because it is so important, some students take off an entire year to study for the exam. To the truly hard-pressed or insane, depending on your perspective, there are also special live-in programs, where students lock themselves up until exam time.
In the clip (above) a student breaks their right arm a week before the exam, and has to complete the entire thing with his bad hand. Students ooh-ed and aaah-ed over the presentation. The Sooneung exam is such a big issue in this country that a simple mention of it will draw sighs and empathetic nods of understanding from bystanders. Who knows? It might be a good topic for a film (wink, wink).
I love this piece (above) about a young lover being inspired by the film, "Men of Honor". It was thoughtful, well-delivered, and honest. A common theme among a majority of the presentations this semester. It makes me want to give everyone an A. Who knows? Maybe, I will.