Korean institute takes root in the Midwest

From Iowa Now

Sang-Seok Yoon (center) receives a King Sejong Institute designation for the University of Iowa. The center opens at the UI this fall.

Whether it’s the proliferation of K-pop or the increasing prominence of Korean corporations that’s putting Korea on the map for Iowans, there’s no doubt that there’s an exploding interest in all things Korean at the University of Iowa.

UI Korean instructor Sang-Seok Yoon says the growing trends in Korean language enrollment and a marked increase in interest in Korean language and culture within the Iowa City community in recent years were among the reasons he petitioned for the UI to become the newest location of a prestigious King Sejong Institute (KSI).

The UI will host an opening ceremony for KSI on Thursday, Oct. 9, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Iowa Memorial Union Second Floor Ballroom on the UI campus. The event is free and open to the public. Guests are invited to share in Korean food, culture, and learn about the courses and programs that will be offered by KSI.

The date of the institute’s opening ceremony has special significance to Koreans and KSI, Yoon explains. Oct. 9 is a holiday in South Korea known as Hangul Day which commemorates the invention of the Korean alphabet. It was established in the 15th century by the King Sejong Institute’s namesake, Sejong the Great.

King Sejong Institutes are established in 50 countries around the globe and funded by the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the International Korean Language Foundation to introduce and teach Korean and Korean culture.

“The largest benefit that the KSI brings to the community is increased accessibility to a country and part of the globe whose economic and cultural presence will continue to grow in the future,” says Russell Ganim, director of the UI Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures (DWLLC) in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The Iowa City King Sejong Insitute, which opens this month, will be administered by the DWLLC and by International Programs with support from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The UI will operate the institute in partnership with Ewha Womans University in Seoul, Korea, with whom the UI has had a study abroad exchange program for the past 14 years. Sookyung Park, a visiting instructor from Ewha Womans University, will teach language courses at the UI through KSI.

The Iowa City King Sejong Institute will be one of seven KSI in the United States and the first in the Midwest. Its function will be to provide noncredit Korean language classes to the Iowa City community and facilitate Korean cultural activities.

International Programs’ dean Downing Thomas says the services of the institute will be two-fold, benefiting both the academic excellence of the UI and local Iowans.

“Because ours is the only KSI in the Midwest, it promises to bring knowledge of Korean language and culture to Iowa and the entire region, as well as expanding opportunities for UI students,” Thomas says.

Zach Smith, UI Study Abroad advisor for Korea, says in addition to the cultural benefits to the local community, he hopes the UI’s collaboration with Ewha Womans University in running the institute will help strengthen and develop what was once just a study abroad relationship between the two schools. Discussions are in the works for exchanges of art displays, faculty exchanges, and hosting music and performance groups from both institutions.

“This partnership is trying to be much more than a simple student exchange now,” says Smith. “We want it to be multi-leveled and diverse. We feel that if we can engage in not only the exchange of students, but that of art, ideas, and other resources, this relationship can truly flourish.”

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, contact John Kaelber in advance at 319-335-3475.

See this original story on Iowa Now

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