Video: Korea Times Hawaii covers UH Hilo’s new Korean language courses

Reporters from The Korea Times Hawaii recently visited UH Hilo to interview faculty and students on new Korean language courses.

By Susan Enright.

Video above was produced by The Korea Times Hawaii.

Seri Luangphinith
Seri Luangphinith

Reporters from The Korea Times Hawaii recently visited the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo to interview faculty and students about the university’s new Korean language courses.

Seri Luangphinith, English professor and chair of the UH Hilo humanities division, served as host during the visit. Two reporters interviewed Luangphinith and Heasook Kim, UH Hilo lecturer in Korean. Both are featured in the above video.

The reporters came to UH Hilo to document the university’s resources on Korean language and history; in the video above, the reporters visit Mary Louise Haraguchi, Hawaiian collection librarian at Mookini Library. The reporters also shot footage of UH Hilo tutors in the language lab and students in the classroom with Kim.

Development of Korean language program at UH Hilo

The start of the new courses was student-driven.

“I surveyed the students to see what (language) interests they had, and surprisingly they expressed an interest in Korean,” says Luangphinith. “Since we don’t have a Korean teacher in our foreign languages department, I reached out to Mrs. Kim to take me on as a private student. She helped me to master basic Korean in less than a year.”

Inspired, Luangphinith then created two experimental courses during the last academic year. “I then put in for a grant to the Korea Foundation, they gave us $11,000 to run KOR 101 and 102 (elementary Korean) this academic year,” she explains.

Read the Korea Times article

The article in Korea Times Hawaii was published on Oct. 13, 2015. The reporting covers the development of the courses and how student interest helped to propel this new language program. Some of the reasons students gave were use in understanding Korean drama, overall interest in culture and history, and business opportunities.

Summary translation of article (by Heasook Kim):

Now the two colleges in neighboring islands, UH Maui and UH Hilo, have Korean language classes, although UH Manoa has a full-fledged Korean Studies program for several years. Both colleges started to offer an introductory Korean language classes in Spring 2014 and have been teaching Korean and its culture for 3 semesters.

Surprisingly, the birth of the new KOR 101 in UH Hilo, however, was credited to Dr. Seri I Luangphinith, chair of Humanities Division and an English professor. She is not a Korean unlike most enthusiasts and leaders in initiating and maintaining the Korean language courses are native Koreans. It’s very rare. As a professor born and raised in Hilo, Dr. Luangphinith’s focus has always been on the development of the local community. She did surveys to the students in Humanity Division and learned that many students were interested in learning the Korean language and its culture beyond out of simple curiosity for quite practical reasons.

First, she started learning Korean by herself while looking for a native Korean to reinforce her learning. It was not easy to find a teacher among the relatively small Korean population in Hilo. Luckily, she met Mrs. Kim, who had been active for many years in teaching Korean at Hawaii Korean Language School in Hilo ever since she moved to the Big Island 22 years ago. She also had many experiences of directing music and dance performances in the Korean community. Dr. Luangphinith was confident that Mrs. Kim would be the one who can not only teach the Korean language successfully but can also help her make the course further grow to Korean Studies.

Professor Luangphinith has visited Korea twice and actively tries to learn and understand the Korean culture. She is now quite fluent in Korean and can even joke in Korean making visiting Korea Times reporters surprised.

Dr. Luangphinith believes that we have to pay attention to the economic growth and industrial development of Korea. She wants to establish Korean Studies program encompassing the country’s culture, economy and politics as well as the language so that our students after finishing the courses may take part in the international cooperation between the two counties. Mrs. Kim feels very proud of her students who studies diligently and she eagerly hopes they successfully accomplish their goals.

She concluded that a support from the Korean government was needed for the development of teaching materials suitable for the foreign learners, the training of teachers, and financial supports to keep Korean classes in the universities open.


About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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