Students on the Embrace Korean Culture program practice traditional archery at Suwon’s Hwaseong Fortress. (Maryann Wright/The Korea Herald)
Foreign students were welcomed into the hearts and homes of local Korean mothers this month as part of an event run by the Korea National Mothers’ Association.
Students from Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Mongolia, the U.S., China, Pakistan, Japan and Malaysia were shown around traditional villages and palaces before staying the night at a homestay.
Participants tried their hands at archery and pottery, watched acrobatic and martial arts performances, and tasted local cuisine while touring the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress and Traditional Korean Folk Village.
The “Embrace Korean Culture” program, which took place on the first Saturday of this month, accommodated limited Korean speakers via the help of local student volunteers who assisted the students with everything from translation to instruction on how to eat jeon (pancakes) with chopsticks.
Fakhar Khan, an international Ph.D. student at Hanyang University from Pakistan, found the event a fun alternative to his intensive weekday research on anti-cancer drugs.
A group of students look in on a woman dressed in traditional clothes as she works a spindle at the Korean Folk Village in Suwon. (Maryann Wright/The Korea Herald)
“While studying in Korea it was my intention to not only work academically hard but also get into the culture of the country. This event has taught me more about Korean traditions and allowed me to visit historically important sites,” he said before joining a group learning how to skip and sing a Korean skipping song.
Chemical engineer Li Shang-Liu, on exchange from China at Kyung Hee University, was grateful for the cultural experience and also for the friends she made. Li found a kindred spirit in her Korean partner and says they are already planning to catch up in China.
“My new Korean friend wants to study Chinese, so we are going to teach each other our native languages, and she might even come to study in China,” Li said.
Local Korean volunteers who helped the international students throughout the day felt they mutually benefited from the program.
For volunteer Hana Song, the event gave her a chance to practice English while on vacation from studying at the University of California, Berkeley in the U.S.
“I haven’t had a chance to practice English while living in Seoul with my family over the summer break because not many people speak English here. Today I get to speak only English,” Song said.
Other local students like Mina Kim from Hanyang University were intrigued to meet foreigners.
“I don’t have any foreign friends so I volunteered for the program to get to know people from other cultures,” Kim said. “It’s an easy way to meet the limited number of exchange students who come to Korea.”
The “Embrace” program is an annual event in its third year. It works in cooperation with the Korean government’s focus on globalization.
“By creating an open space where young people from around the world can communicate with one other, we are actively making ties with the globe via cultural exchange,” general manager of the Korea National Mother’s Association Ham Yun-joo said. “Korea is now a wealthy country and has enough resources to share with other countries, so we should start utilizing them.”
For more information about future events run by the Korea National Mother’s Association, visit www.koreamother.or.kr or call 02-5120-4889.
By Maryann Wright, Intern reporter