Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Korea is not as cool as Japan.

So, in the summer of 2007, I took an intensive 10-week "intermediate Korean" language course at UC Berkeley -- why I just didn't go to Yonsei University through the study abroad program I have no idea (It's cheaper to study at Yonsei University and financial aid covers the program no differently than if students were to have taken it here). By the way, despite the fact that California is what the Economist calls “The ungovernable state,” California offers her students so many opportunities to receive higher education that I am oh so, very proud to be a "native Californian" and attend a university known as "Cal." More so, after glimpsing overseas into a life as an illegal without a high school diploma in a country that values higher education religiously to the point where on College Entrace Exam Day,

"...while students are taking the listening portions of the tests, planes can't land or take off at the nation's airports" (Wall Street Journal).

I think the system here at California is incredible with its three tier, community college system, California State University system, and, of course, the University of California system, where pretty much, anybody that wants to learn could. By the way, this for me is basically the single best argument against those that argue for a minimum wage that is also a "liveable wage." I'd think raising incentives to go back to school or providing more financial support to those would provide much, more tangible benefits (I'd like to have a link here, but I don't).

Rather than raising minimum wages (and in exchange ensuring that a select few will lose their jobs -- again, akin to what I call the "carpool-lane-syndrome"), make it easier for people to go back to school and give them the financial support necessary to do so. While I am a recipient of much financial support from both government and family, I know a lot of others aren't. I think I will be living proof of that as I obtained my diploma from an adult school at twenty-five and am about to graduate from the University of California, Berkeley at twenty-eight. After that, I hope to be a very productive and contributive member of society.

More so, since as they say Cal is the flagship university of the University of California system (though I think UCLA has a slightly bigger endowment and a better basketball team, which, of course, will and should change over the long run), there are a lot of other schools to choose from in between... And, there's the private schools as well -- which brings up another point about how public universities need to get more financial support from alumni(a parallel argument about Korea follows).

But, anyways, while I was taking that Korean language course at Berkeley, there was only one "American" student in the class with American being used here in what I believe to be a very historical sense of the word, where being "American" meant white and male. Once a week, we'd watch movies or media in a different classroom, where a Japanese language course preceded our course at times -- I noticed that almost the entire Japanese language class was white.

So, I see a problem.

Why is it that there isn't more interest in Korea ? I mean, I understand. Mandarin Chinese is understood to be useful for business since after all China within the next couple decades will boast the largest economy (at least along a PPP measure, number of automobiles sold, internet users, etc). Japanese could also thought to be useful for business as Japanese savings makes up for roughly half the world's savings (I wish I had this link as well). But, more over, I get this feeling that Japanese is seen as cool and, me being, you know, Korean-American feel that it isn't. Some of this I blame on Koreans and their lack of confidence in their own country so far as I doubt those of Japanese descent reading this would take what I just wrote very seriously and would probably take what I just said to be a compliment (Consider South Korean reaction to Korean culture getting some good, quality exposure when Rain (λΉ„) was mentioned in the Colbert Report). To those Koreans that still don't agree or haven't seen it yet, watch the video and then read

And, then there's Korean, which I feel provokes, a "Ehhh...." feeling. Japanese, you understand, was an enemy of this country not too long ago and even in sixth grade I remember widespread distrust and angst against the Japanese in popular American culture. Remember the movie/book,
Rising Sun? Well, it was about the Japanese trying to take over the United States by economic means (Although, Sony does own a chunk of Hollywood and Japanese investors did purchase the Rockafeller Center in New York at point. Not sure if that's really taking over the country. I would think this trade imbalance - minus the angle from Americans losing jobs on a large scale - is more of a neo-colonial system where Americans get to enjoy all these great products from all over the world at dirt cheap prices).

Anyways, I think those of Korean heritage that have grown to be rich or influential, such as actors, scholars, and owners of giant conglomerates, such as Samsung, have a duty to advertise the country or at the very least make sure that public univerisities have the funding to provide classes on the Korean language. University of California was about to cut Korean language courses last year at Los Angeles and Berkeley and was also about to eliminate the Korean Studies minor at Berkeley.

No comments:

Post a Comment