Home > Home > “Annyong hasaeyo sonseung,” said a crowd of Dutch young people

“Annyong hasaeyo sonseung,” said a crowd of Dutch young people

December 19, 2011

by Sefanja Saino

AMSTERDAM – Over 70 Dutch students start off their Saturday mornings greeting their (voluntary) teachers in South-Korean with “Good morning teacher”eagerly awaiting for class to start and to gain knowledge of Korean culture.

“Every class is full of students and the number keeps on increasing every semester. My class is the largest, it comprises 17 students,” said Youngmee Choi, teacher at Department Beginners/Arierang of The Korean School of Amsterdam.

Situated in Amstelveen in a rented building that serves as a high school during the week, this institution has gained much prominence in The Netherlands since its establishment in 1993 and has obtained a leading position in Dutch-Korean community even being recognized as a main contributor by the mayor of Amstelveen.

With their motto “Become a proud Korean”, the members behind this organization strive to pursue this goal by means of education.

“We have a lot of adopted students born in Korea to whom Korean School serves as a gateway to their origin and related traditions,” said Youngmee.

The class designed for these students is named after Arierang, the Dutch association for Korean adoptees, which the school is affiliated with.

(In order to become proud,) the school believes that it is fundamental to have obtained sufficient knowledge on Korean culture and students will be able to encounter their weaknesses and strengths by means of the institution’s mother tongue education.

Over 27 teachers and volunteers sacrifice their Saturday mornings to teach not only students of Korean descent about their heritage, but also all others that show interest in learning about Korean culture.

“When I heard there was a Korean school in Amsterdam I immediately registered for the beginners course,” said Richard, first level intermediate student. “I find the language very interesting and fun to learn. Whenever I am here among true Koreans, I kind of feel like a Korean too”.

The school offers a broad range of other courses such as English, Dutch, Music and Korean history, next to Korean language.

Many adult Koreans attend Dutch classes, while their children are taught Korean in another class.

Due to this variety, the school also serves as a meeting point for these adult Koreans from Amsterdam and surroundings, resembling a community center for this ethnic minority.

The close relationships built up in this community are repeatedly reinforced by activities organized by the organization, such as cooking lessons, traditional dance and music lessons, and the annual graduation ceremony.

Every semester all students and affiliates are also invited to Korean Sports Day hosted in the sports field of the school.

On this day, emphasis is placed on teamwork between classmates and on parent-children relationships by imposing challenges upon them wherein they are required to work together in order to succeed.

Not only parent-children relationships of Koreans are important to the school, much attention is also paid to Dutch parents who adopted a Korean child, noticeable in the relationship of the school with Arierang.

The school gives them the opportunity to engage with Koreans in order to understand their children’s background and the offered nursery school level classes provides these children a chance to be raised according to Korean ethical standards while living in The Netherlands.

Miranda, second year intermediate student, was adopted by a Dutch family in the seventies. “At that time there was no Korean community available in the Netherlands for parents of Korean adoptees. Therefore I did not have the chance to be raised according to Korean tradition. When I grew older the curiosity for my heritage only increased, and I decided to follow Hangul lessons,” she said.

The significance of the Korean atmosphere created by the school is also of importance to Miranda. “Studying here gives me the chance to be Korean in practice too, and not just in my mind. The food, the people, the music, it all provides me a sense of belonging. An online course could not have offered me that.”

An important event to close of the semester, which ends beginning March, is the graduation ceremony.

During this ceremony all Korean language classes are obliged to do a performance, ranging from a theatre piece to choreography on a K-pop song.

“Last year we performed ‘Nobody’, sung by ‘원더걸스’ (Wondergirls). We started rehearsing three weeks before graduation, but still no one seemed to remember the steps on the actual day. We had to improvise at the last moment which was really funny for the audience to see,” said Richard.

The graduation ceremony is open for all who are interested and a clever way to attract new non-Korean students, such as the friends students may invite.

Former student Mitchell said “I mostly miss the combination of studying and having fun. Whenever the study load got too heavy, a workshop class would be organized. It is a great way to get acquainted with Korean culture while keeping it fun, because the homework is not easy to finish. Unfortunately I failed my final test past semester, but I was still welcome to celebrate graduation. ”

Another way to attract students is to host open days twice a year, a few weeks before classes start.

With the increasing popularity of Korean culture among young people globally, it is expected for the school to expand in the coming years and a possibility is present for them to own their own property.

The Korean School of Amsterdam has managed to become an important player in Korean community in The Netherlands, starting with only one Arierang class in 1993 to a total of seven to this day.

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