With rising popularity of Korean culture from fans worldwide, students at UTD are also showing their interest by coming together every Friday to learn and teach the Korean language.
For the last four years, pastors from a local Korean church and Richard Min, a senior lecturer in the computer science department, have been leading Korean classes for interested students on campus as part of the Korean Language Club.
As the group began to gain more interest from students wanting to teach and learn, it became an official university organization last fall, with Min as their advisor. The classes are taught by pastors from a local Korean church named Disciples for Christ, as well as students who have been learning the language for at least one year. An average of 35 students attend the classes and 10 of the students serve as teachers for their peers.
“You would be amazed by how many different students are interested in learning Korean,” Min said. “For years, we were meeting up voluntarily. I realized that we really needed to make it into an organization and involve student leadership.”
Biomedical engineering senior Oluwatobi Babayemi has been learning Korean since her freshman year and is currently teaching students at the beginner level, as well as serving as an officer for Korean Language Club. She said in addition to having pastors and students teach Korean, the club also partners with local church and other Korean-related clubs on campus to host events that educate students about Korean culture.
“I know we have Hallyu and other clubs related to Korea, but we didn’t really have one that focused on the Korean language, and so the other officers and I worked on creating one that actually focused on language specifically,” Babayemi said.
In the past couple of semesters, the number of students attending the classes has risen. Min said one of the biggest reasons included the rising popularity Korean entertainment such as K-pop and K-drama, with many of his students, domestic and international, learning Korean to get more familiar with Korean pop culture.
“Once, I went to Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and we were waiting in the immigration office, people were watching the TV that was muted. I was shocked to see that they were all watching a Korean drama,” Min said. “It amazes me how popular Korean culture is in the world, including UTD.”
Zijun Mai, a supply chain management graduate and an officer of KLC, said she values the community of students that all like and respect the Korean culture. Having spent 20 years in China, she said although she had been interested in Korean culture, she did not have a chance to learn the language until coming to UTD as a graduate student.
“Some of my friends don’t share my interest in Korean culture. Some days, I would watch Korean TV shows by myself and eat Korean food by myself,” Mai said. “But I love every Friday, because I can share my interest in Korea with so many other people.”
In addition to learning the language through textbooks and conversations, members of the club also immerse themselves in the culture, Babayemi said. She said the pastors that come to help teach the language invite the students to their homes and share Korean meals together. Sometimes, they bring Korean snacks for students to taste.
“I like that I have other people around me that are interested specifically in the Korean culture and language, and I love the Korean teachers,” Babayemi said. “KLC feels like I have a home away from home.”