▲ Park Jin Changa was inspired by the Jirisan School on the mainland. Photo by Steve Oberhauser
Jeju Island is a cultural school where adults can learn.
This is the sentiment of Hallasan School director and Dalli Library founder Park Jin Changa.
Now in its sixth semester, the Hallasan School consists of 20 practical classes – such as natural dyeing, how to roast and hand-drip coffee, book art, and how to take a good photo – that are open to adults, free from any formalities, and non-hierarchical. Each class is flexible according to the teachers and the willingness of the students.
“I got inspired behind the idea of Jirisan School (on the mainland),” Park Jin said. “The artists go to that village and sometimes teach people what they know. I wanted to modify this concept because Jirisan is a mountain area. On Jeju, there are many kinds of people.”
Her career was with a non-governmental organization (NGO) for a women’s support association on Jeju, but she moved to Seoul for 10 years to learn about cultural performance, art planning and festivals, and managed to study and work at the same time. The Jeju native moved back to Jeju two years ago. In September of 2009, Hallasan School launched; one month later, the library just south of City Hall opened.
“I stayed outside Jeju for quite a long time,” Park Jin explained. “I know how outsiders (non-Jeju natives) could feel and how they think.”
As director, she went various places around Jeju Island to find artists and people who have the same feeling and support the school’s mission.
Today, about 80 students take part in the Hallasan School, which is funded privately through tuition. Students pay 150,000 won for a 12-week course that meets at least two hours each week. Per class, the maximum number of students is 10; the minimum is three to five. Each semester students are limited to two classes.
The Hallasan School wants people to focus on something, according to Park Jin. “The number of students does not guarantee the quality,” she added. “Teachers need to connect better with the students.”
The classes are varied. For instance, a prospective student can learn how to dye, write a fairy tale, travel around Jeju eating traditional food while understanding its history, collectively draw and write, and create furniture by hand.
The most popular course is at a Samyang bean farm, learning the fine art of coffee making. A Canadian woman is the first Western foreigner to take a class through the program.
Other courses offered include botany centering on mountain wildflowers, sewing and tea creation, ddeok making, European folk art, handmade book art, art meditation, architecture, Jeju onggi pottery, taking and uploading digital photos, film photography, vocal training and farming.
In regards to farming, Park Jin said this is very important as agriculture and culture meet. Connections are present. The farmer becomes a teacher, and people from the cities learn from him.
“In an ordinary school, it is very structured and ordered, but here all the teachers and students are equal and get together and discuss,” Park Jin elaborated. “Teachers communicate amongst themselves, and all teachers can participate in other classes for free.”
Park Jin also has an Internet cafe for the Hallasan School, and the number of people is almost the same height in meters as South Korea’s highest peak. In a short period, the school has received a lot of attention by word of mouth.
“The number is not important,” Park Jin said. “I want the roots of the school to be strong. Slowly, I want more people to enjoy Jeju. And life goes with learning. Hallasan School wants to bring out culture.”
Park Jin invests her other energies into Dalli Library. During the daytime, it is an alternative library unique to all of Korea. Admission is 4,000 won. At night, women travelers can stay. The guesthouse is 20,000 won per person, 15,000 won if with more than one person.
Currently, there are about 2,500 books ranging in literature to social sciences. Members, or people who agree with the content, send 20 books each. With distribution and circulation, the books can travel among members.
Dalli is an adverb in Korea, to act differently. It is also a kind of abbreviation, the sound of the moon, feminine and from inside the soul. So, Dalli can also mean the sound of reading books under the moonlight.
About 20 to 30 people visit the library each day.
“Jeju is a good environment, but there are not a lot of people who enjoy living here because this is the place of their life,” Park Jin said. “It can be very diligent and busy. People just do not enjoy their lives.”
This can be remedied through the Hallasan School and Dalli Library. Park Jin is a native and a traveler. She wants to connect and become a bridge to the outside of Jeju Island.
She thinks her own way.
(Interpretation by Kim Soo Yang)
Dalli Library Address: 2nd Floor, 1017, Ido-2 dong, Jeju City Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (closed Sundays) Telephone: 010-2699-4970
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