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Synergy Benefits of Korean Language Education

Third Korean Cultural Festival for Beijing-Area University Students
Bae Kyu-bum
Visiting Professor, Department of Korean Language
The third Korean Cultural Festival was conducted in Beijing, on October 19-24. This year’s festival host and primary organizer was the Department of Korean Language of the University of International Business and Economics. With the participation of more than 600 students and faculty, the Korean Cultural Festival is already a well-established event, despite its brief history.

Foreign Policy Direction
Currently, there are about 50 departments of Korean language at universities in China. In Beijing itself, nine universities maintain Korean language departments: Central University for Nationalities, Peking University, University of International Business and Economics, Beijing Foreign Studies University, Beijing Language and Culture University, Beijing International Studies University, Communication University of China, Beijing Union University, and Beijing University of Technology.
The Korean language program of China is more extensive than that of any country in the world, while the quality of Korean language education is of a high level as well. To capitalize on this favorable academic infrastructure, the Korea Foundation has been undertaking various initiatives to establish Beijing as a mecca of Korean language education (and Korean Studies) in Asia. This includes support for the annual Korean Cultural Festival, which is now in its third year of operation.

2008 Festival
The Korean Cultural Festival is primarily focused on efforts to strengthen the cooperative relations among the Korean language departments of the nine universities in Beijing, through their joint participation in the festival activities. In particular, the event enables the participants to exchange academic information and develop personal relationships so as to maximize the synergy benefits of Korean language education in Beijing. The successful implementation of the Korean Cultural Festival, which provides direct benefits for the universities in China, can also serve as a model for the organization of similar events in other countries.
The Department of Korean Language of the University of International Business and Economics, the organizer of this year’s festival, focused on a theme of “Revival of Academic Interest and Unique Experiences for University Students,” as a reflection of the university’s 56 years of efforts to provide its students with a meaningful and insightful education.
The festival featured nine major events and two exhibitions. This included a formal opening ceremony that was presided over by Korean Ambassador to China Shin Jeong-seung and University of International Business and Economics President Chen Zhunmi, along with various sessions, such as “Meeting with the Ambassador,” “2008 Beijing Quiz Competition,” and Faculty Meeting.
The academic sessions were followed by sports events, Hanmaeum Athletic Meet, a student talent show, "Dongadongnak", and Debate in Korean, in the afternoon, and a welcome reception in the evening. On the second day, there was a forum for graduate students who are currently writing their dissertations on Korean Studies subject areas. In addition, three Korean sports movies were screened over three days under a title of “Sports Are Alive.” There was also an exhibition on Korean classical poems and a “Korea Today” photo exhibition, sponsored by the Korean Cultural Center in China, which were presented in the Yongyuanlou lobby area, introducing various aspects of Korea’s past and present to the festival-goers. As compared to the inaugural festival in 2006, this year’s program included more than double the number of events and organized activities.

Beijing Quiz Competition
Four teams, which had survived two preliminary rounds, contended for first place in the “2008 Beijing Quiz Competition.” The contestants were asked various questions to test their listening and speaking skills, along with having to complete crosswords puzzles in Korean, write down the lyrics of Korean songs, and give responses to a round of speed questions. In the end, the winning team was from the University of International Business and Economics. The event, however, revealed certain weaknesses of the students in regard to Korean orthography, conjugation of verbs and adjectives, and knowledge about current affairs in Korea. Professors at the event unanimously agreed that it provided them with an opportunity to again seriously contemplate the future direction of Korean language instruction.

First Debate in Korean
“Debate in Korean” was the first event of its kind, which previously had never been organized by a Korean language department in China. As a new innovation, “Debate in Korean” included teams representing four universities, who were selected from a preliminary round of competition.
The three final rounds, two semifinals and a finals, were held at the festival. Each team was comprised of four members who presented an opening argument, responded to questions raised by their opponents, and then presented a concluding argument. Topics of the debate included “strengths/weaknesses of part-time employment,” advantages/disadvantages of weight control,” and the “relative significance/insignificance of bread versus love.” While expressing their opinions, based on personal experiences, the contestants enthusiastically argued their positions and questioned the claims of others from a variety of perspectives, all in Korean.
Professors who participated in an evaluation of the debate competition were highly supportive of this event, which is likely to become a regular activity of Korean language education, since it promotes an overall command of Korean by the contestants, rather than simply the memorization and presentation techniques of a speech contest.
The team from Beijing Foreign Studies University was awarded first place for the debate competition. Evaluated as an event that successfully contributed to the objectives of promoting Korean language proficiency in practical and enjoyable ways, the debate competition is certain to be organized by other Korean language departments in China, along with serving as an event to assess the language skills of outstanding students.
It can be said that the Korean Cultural Festival has firmly established itself as a meaningful cultural event thanks to its creativity, serious academic aspects, and exceptional implementation of programs, thereby living up to its goal of being a cultural festival for university students. This event can thus function as a cornerstone for cooperative Korea-China relations, with the adoption of minor improvements, in regard to more flexible scheduling of the festival and continued support from the Korea Foundation.

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