▲ French students on Jeju exuberantly express their delight at visiting the island, after studying Korean culture and language in their native country.Photo courtesy the Center for International Affairs, Jeju National University
Upon entering the dining room at Jeju National University, the elegant fashion, the glasses of wine and the pate hors d’oeuvres immediately signaled that the evening was hosted in the French style.
The July 10 dinner was the culmination of a two-week visit to Jeju by students from the University of Rouen in the Normandy region of France. They have all studied Korean language and culture through their university's Korean Studies program headed by Prof. Kyu-Young Beaumont Moon.
A dynamic leader, Moon has been an ambassador for Korea since beginning the program in 2004. She sited a desire for French students to discover the Eastern style of living and share their European traditions with Jeju.
Moon said that the major thing inhibiting cultural exchange between France and Jeju is that the French language is not taught here, limiting the possibility of Korean students visiting France and communicating there.
“Education is the sector we must not ignore,” she said. “Korea, as a country with no natural resources, must focus on education. This kind of cultural exchange works well at the university level, but we need to expand to high schools and middle schools. That's the future!”
The group of 20 students, ranging in majors from psychology to international business, all are part of the Korean program. There are three areas of study: Korean language, civilization, and culture as seen through Korean cinema. The largest event of their year is an annual Korean film festival held in November that they spend eight months planning. They present films, invite actors and filmmakers to speak, and give presentations providing context for the stories so the French public will understand. They answer questions like: “Why are the Koreans eating all the time?” This year the festival is entitled Agroa (the source of democracy) and will be attended by Jeju Provincial Governor Kim Tae Hwan.
▲ Right: French students strike a playful pose with a cadre of Jeju dolhareubang at the Jeju Stone Park. Photos courtesy the Center for International Affairs, Jeju National University
This is Moon's second trip accompanying students from her Korean studies program. The Jeju educational trip consists of morning classes in Korean language and cultural activities in the afternoon and evening. They explored many aspects of Korean culture including Kum-do, Korean dance, traditional games, trying on Hambok (traditional dress), pottery making, and meeting haenyeo. They also visited many places in Jeju including UNESCO world heritage sites, museums, the Manjang Cave and the Five Day Market.
The students also reached out to the Jeju community by giving a two-day presentation to students at the Jeju Boy's High School in Seogwipo. The lessons were about the differences between French and Korean advertisements, highlighting variations in common cultural metaphors and subconscious associations between certain products and images.
Erin Williams, the class’s English teacher, said “The boys didn't know what to think of the French ads. They were so different.”
The French students will return to Rouen to tell their friends about the beautiful island of Jeju while engaging in the Korean programs favorite pastime: eating kum ramyen and drinking soju together. The students repeated over and over that they would never forget Jeju people's kindness and hospitality. Many of them will return next year as the program is now an annual occurrence.
While the students no doubt enjoyed learning about all that Jeju has to offer, Moon wants them to take away a deeper lesson.
“The most important thing I want to teach them is Donghari, the group mind, to come together and find common ground. That is the goal of our program,” she said.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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Professor Kyu-Young Beaumont Moon leads a lesson in Korean for students in the Korean Studies program at the University of Rouen in France.
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