With the Korean Wave spreading to Thailand, this year, along with the Graduate School of International Studies at Ewha, Professor Supaporn Boonrung has established Korean language as an official major in Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.
“I first got to learn Korean at a restaurant where my mother worked as a cook and I as a server,” she said. “Since then, I started to get familiar with Korean people and language and chose to major in Korean at college in Thailand.”
Boonrung decided to learn more about the Korean language by acquiring a master’s degree from the Department of Korean Studies at Ewha.
“After graduation, I dreamt of furthering my studies in Korea and got a chance to meet Professor Hai-young Lee from the Graduate School of International Studies,” she said. “Thanks to her, I got information about the master’s program and in 2004 was the first Thai student to enter Ewha.”
At first, Boonrung had difficulties adjusting.
“I remember that most foreign students were from China and Japan,” she said, “So the professors at the university were more familiar with Chinese and Japanese students than students from other countries. At first, I felt so empty and desolate.”
However, she was able to overcome such difficulties by getting support from her friends and professors. She even recalled participating in hosting an international seminar despite her language barrier.
“There were many times I felt very discouraged, but my professors and friends always helped me and gave me a lot of support,” she said. “Also, studying at Ewha was an opportunity for me to not only learn academic knowledge, but also teamwork, Korean culture and open-mindedness.”
Boonrung wanted to share the beauty of Korean in Thailand because of its uniqueness.
“I once wondered why Korean people looked impetuous, impulsive and even uptight,” she confessed. “However, after studying Korean for a while, I found that the language itself was actually deep, detailed, and sensitive in terms of sentence structures and honorific forms that are used to show respect to the listeners. I then came to realize that Korean people were actually very soft and thoughtful.”
As a professor of the Faculty of Eastern Studies, primarily for Korean language, in Thailand’s most prestigious royal university, Chulalongkorn University, she started with only five students minoring in Korean. However, for the past 10 years over 500 students have taken Korean language as an elective.
“I expect that number to continue to grow,” she added. “Our students typically have different backgrounds in our university, and a lot of them choose to study Korean as their minor.”
She mentioned the growing Korean culture within Thailand to be the primary reason behind establishing Korean language as a major in Chulalongkorn University in Thailand.
“Korean culture and language have become well known and celebrated in Thailand,” she said. “Thailand has one of the largest populations that study Korean language. The Korean Wave here in Thailand, whether it be music, TV dramas, or entertainment programs, has made Korean a popular subject.”
She also mentioned that people studying Korean have a lot of opportunities to use their skills in a working capacity because there are many Korean organizations, companies and factories here in Thailand.
Boonrung is aiming to teach not only the language but also Korean culture, history, literature and basic knowledge.
“I believe that just having language skills is likely not enough for students to work efficiently and effectively in a Korean-influenced work environment,” she said.
Expecting a great number of Korean majors to be produced, Boonrung underlined the successful outcomes Korean minors have had so far.
“Some of the students who minor in Korea have passed level 3 or 4 of the TOPIK test, and some have already passed level 5,” she said. “Some students who graduated with Korean minors have managed to get employed in Korean enterprises, and some have chosen to further their studies in Korea. Every year, some students also receive scholarships to pursue master’s degrees in Korea.”
Learning a foreign language and introducing it to her homeland, Boonrung has achieved wonders by realizing the importance of Korean within Thailand. She has attributed her success to her experiences at Ewha, giving current Ewha students wise words of advice.
“I feel proud of myself as an Ewha member because all of the experiences I gained there have largely contributed to my success today,” she said. “During my seven years at Ewha, I gained inspiration, motivation, and friendship, and that is what has propelled me to pursue my dream. I am very thankful for this beautiful path that Ewha has prepared me for. I will continue to work hard to promote a strong relationship between Ewha and Chulalongkorn University.”