Symposium focuses on rise of South Korea

Holly Leske

Julia DeCook, a senior journalism major and South Korea transplant, hopes that people will become more aware of South Korea and stop asking if the people speak

Spanish there. With the latest symposium held last Friday, Jan. 27, DeCook might have received her wish.

The fourth annual “Rising Powers” symposium, hosted by the South Dakota World Affairs Council, focused on the Republic of Korea’s rise to power in the world and its link to South Dakota and SDSU.

The symposium started at noon with exhibits and videos about Korea, while speakers and panelists discussed different facets of South Korea every hour. The event ranged from the rise of Korea to examining SDSU’s relationship with Korean students.

“The symposium is offered to educate, develop understanding and stimulate discussion about the Republic of Korea and its relationship with the United States,” read the event’s mission statement.

As well as examining history, economics and trade, the symposium examined the differences and similarities between South Dakota’s and Korea’s education systems. A panel of Korean SDSU students and faculty, including Soohyun Cho, Mina Lee, Chung-yeol Moon, J.C. Moon and Haejin Yoon, shared their experiences as proof of the difference.

Panelists examined their personal experiences at SDSU, especially focusing on how American students display different characteristics in the classroom than Korean students.

“Students here are quite different from the ones in Korea, they’re more personal with their professors … they are really active when they’re asking the professors questions,” said one female panelist. “I thought it was one of the bright sides of [American] education.”

Children in Korea spend 220 days a year in K-12 School, while Americans spend 180 days. Korean students also begin studying at an early age for University Entrance Exams, far sooner than American teenagers begin studying for SAT or ACTs, overall spending far more time studying than their American counterparts. The Korean attitude toward teachers also focuses highly on respect; students ask far fewer questions and have more professional than personal interactions with their instructors.

“[American] students are strongly encouraged to express their opinion … the interactions are cheerful. That was the one thing I really envy,” added another panelist.

DeCook hoped the symposium would bring awareness to the community about South Korea in general, as well as generate interest in learning more.

After growing up in Daegu, South Korea for 16 years, DeCook moved to America and eventually chose to attend SDSU. Her hope is that more people become aware of the rise of South Korea, dubbed the “Tiger of the East,” and that programs could be created to extend out to Korean students on campus, such as a Korean Student Association.

DeCook also hopes this symposium could be the start of generating more awareness about Korea and its crucial role in the world, as well as in America, since few people may be aware of how far Korea’s reach extends.

“LG and Samsung are Korean brands … Your phone is probably Korean,” DeCook said. “A lot of the technology that Americans have access to was made in Korea.”

The technological advances made in Korea are being felt throughout the world and not only through the Samsung and LG brands. The growth has taken off since industrialization in the 1960s, with inventions such as Park Kye-jung’s device that translates electrical power from the vibrations of a running car. Such innovations have given Seoul, South Korea the title of “tech capital of the world” according to the Australian newspaper, The Age.

“They’re their own country too, a lot of stuff happens there, people just don’t know,” said DeCook.