Korean students have launched a petition to support international students struggling to finish mandatory Korean language courses. Informed that many Ewha courses are taught in English, international students often enroll under the notion that Korean proficiency is not necessary. The Division of International Studies (DIS) epecially advertises itself as an institution where Korean classes are not essential for graduation. However, this is not the case.
Courses such as Korean Language and Literature are mandatory for all students except those in the College of Pharmacy and School of Medicine, and here, international students often struggle to overcome the language barrier.
The main problem they face is the difficult level of classes. These courses focus on Korean grammar, writing research essays, and going through critical analysis and discussion, subjects that even Korean students find difficult. Although most international students begin learning Korean at Ewha, all students are required to take the course. Comprehending lectures or submitting assignments in Korean is often beyond their abilities.
“We international students, who do not have a Korean base, can’t understand a word,” said Do Yichen, a Chinese student in DIS who just started studying Korean. “I chose DIS because we were promised that we didn’t need to take any Korean courses. But, because of Korean Language and Writing, I need to spend so much time learning Korean. I’m afraid that this will affect my GPA and application for graduate school.”
Classes for international students do exist, but are still taught in Korean, and often times too difficult for the students.
Fortunately, international students who pass Korean level IV (re-named Korean Language and Korean Culture: Introduction after 2014) are exempted from taking Reading Classics and Writing. However, this requires students to take non-credit courses Korean I-III to qualify.
“The Korean classes are from Mondays to Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. with zero credits,” said Krystal, a student in DIS who also started learning Korean after joining Ewha. “Most of us can’t even write the easiest Korean letters, so we put in effort to finishing homework and speaking practice. But, if we don’t get credits, what is the point for all the hard studying and getting up early every day?”
Students also struggle to schedule time for Korean I-IV as they clash with four out of seven timeslots for chapel, another requirement for graduation. Taking the course during summer and winter semesters are an option, but the tuition is exceptionally burdensome. Korean I-IV taught during school vacations cost 1,500,000 won, about five times the amount for other summer and winter classes.
Korean students at Ewha are working to help their international classmates by speaking up to the school and starting petitions. DIS students started a petition on Oct. 13 in a bid to improve the school’s learning environment. The petition proposes for the school to take Korean language proficiency tests such as TOPIK as a substitute for mandatory Korean courses, award credits for Korean I-IV classes, and provide reasonably priced summer and winter semester Korean courses.
However, their efforts are not drawing enough attention as it only concerns international students.
“To be honest, we’re not doing so well with the petition,” said Lee So-yeon, a student organizing the petition. “Not many Korean students are interested in this issue. To get more people to sign and realize the problem, we are in the process of preparing an online petition with greater accessibility.”
In response to the petition, the school stated that they will try to help international students. However, its stance remains unchanged concerning mandatory Korean courses.
“We understand how difficult it is to take Korean courses,” said the Office of International Affairs. “However, ultimately, it is a necessary course for international students who have decided to come to Korea for their studies. For those who struggle in the process, Ewha Language Center is looking for an effective way to help. It may seem insufficient, but we would appreciate it if the students understand that the school is doing its best to aid the them.”