When people want to study Korea, the obvious thing to do is to move to Korea for schooling. But did you know that there are other ways to know more about Korea from other Asian universities? A lot of Korean universities are establishing partnerships with other universities in Asia. So you actually have a lot of options for further studies.
Take for example, the program that I am currently enrolled in here in Bangkok, Thailand. Right now, I am pursuing a degree in Master of Arts in Korean Studies at Chulalongkorn University (or “Chula”), which is said to be the best university in Thailand. My program is a joint interdisciplinary program between Chula and Seoul National University (SNU), so I am learning from professors from both Chula and SNU.
In the 2008 agreement signed by Chula and SNU, Lee Jang-Moo, 24th president of SNU, said that the program seals Chula’s reputation as a pioneer of Korean Studies in ASEAN. He also said that he hopes for Chula to be the “Mecca of Korean studies in the not too distant future.”
And it seems to have come true. I am here now, along with students from other ASEAN countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and of course, Thailand as ASEAN University Network (AUN) scholars who have come to Chula because of this program.
It’s been a month since I moved from Manila to Bangkok, and so far, so good. I study Korean language almost everyday with Ajarn Kamon Butsaban, a Thai teacher (“ajarn” = “teacher” in the local language) and with Ajarn Min YooMi, a Korean teacher (or “seonsaengnim” in Korean).
Korean professors from SNU fly from Seoul to Bangkok to teach us for one week or so. I’ve had one brilliant Korean professor named Park Tae Gyun who taught us a class called Changes in East Asia. I learned a lot about the inter-relations and intersections of Asian countries’ histories and how these have shaped East Asia. Outside of his class, I’ve come to know the warmth and friendliness of Korean professors who love to eat and drink! =)
Next week, another Korean professor from SNU will fly to Bangkok and teach us a class called Introduction to Korean Studies. I am totally looking forward to that since I’ve read our entire book and found it very engaging. The book, “Korea 2020: Global Perspectives in the Next Decade” gives a balanced assessment (or at least that’s how I understood the book =) ) of the strengths and challenges that Korea will face, as well as recommendations on how to maintain their success and how to move forward to the next phase of their development. I am excited about the discussions that will happen in class.
Thai professors will also teach us these classes, since the nature of my program is interdisciplinary, and therefore, team-taught. My program’s interdisciplinary nature is actually what attracted me to this program. From here, I can get the best of both worlds: An experience of Korea from an ASEAN perspective. Since I come from an ASEAN country, my decision hinged on the desire to know ASEAN-Korea relations better. I want my knowledge to be balanced and well-rounded.
Another reason why I got attracted to this program is because I also get the best of both worlds in terms of travel. Right now, I am studying in Chula in Bangkok. But next year, I will also have a chance to study for a semester in SNU in Seoul. Cool, huh? Knowledge, one-of-a-kind experiences, travel, a diverse set of friends—these are some of the reasons why I am doing Korean Studies…in Bangkok.