By Alyssa Guzman, The Daily Iowan
A smell of beef, peppers, and onions filled a room in the University Capital Center.
Bulgogi, a traditional Korean dish made of a mixture of rice, meat and vegetables, was cooked and served to those who participated in the first Korean cultural class following a relatively new partnership between the University of Iowa and a Korean institute.
Since the partnership, the King Sejong Institute has taught Korean language courses, and it is trying to expand the program to focus on more cultural-related classes.
The cooking class held Dec. 6 was the first step toward that initiative.
“The Korean cooking class is just one of many other offerings of our new King Sejong Institute,” said Downing Thomas, the associate provost and dean of International Programs. “Sponsored by the South Korean government, its purpose is to spread Korean language and culture throughout the world.”
Though the institute would like to soon offer higher levels of Korean language courses, it mainly focuses on extending its cultural courses, which will take place on Saturdays at a rate of $20 per adult.
“[Right now, we’re] just offering beginning language courses,” said Sang-Seok Yoon, a Korean language lecturer.
Currently, offering more Korean cooking and art courses is its goal.
Thus far, the King Sejong Institute has agreed to the UI’s requests.
“We requested Korea to send us someone who specializes in Korean music and art so we can have some Korean art classes,” Yoon said.
The institute recruited Sookyung Park, a Korean language instructor and a graduate from the Ewha Women’s University of Seoul to come to the UI to teach the courses.
Park said she is instructing 12 students, all of whom have been there since the beginning of the semester.
She has taught them Hangul, the Korean alphabet and has also taught them greetings and basic sentences.
“They are so excited about the learning,” Park said. “They have been progressing [even though] it’s so hard to study [Korean]. I’m so excited about the class.”
Thomas said the courses have seen success.
“Courses focused on Korean language and culture have become more numerous and popular in recent years,” he said. “The new King Sejong Institute builds on this growth in interest.”
Kris Mione, a resident of Iowa whose goal is to become fluent in Korean, not only attends the classes the Korean institute offers but also takes UI Korean language classes.
Mione, who brings her children to the classes the institute has to offer, said she appreciates that it can be a family-oriented event they all enjoy.
“It’s been fun,” she said. “We came as a family to the cultural things. I love that we’re doing the cooking class.”
The next cooking class will take place Dec. 13 and those who are in attendance will make Kimbab, Korean sushi.
Mione also said she appreciates that the UI takes the initiative to introduce Americans to other cultures.
“To me, not introducing Americans to world cultures is stupid,” she said. “In Iowa, where it’s not the most diverse place on the planet, this is a good thing.”