Touring Daeil H.S. with Dasol Son, my host student

Upon arrival at the Daeil Foreign Language High School for our first day of class, we were greeted by our host students. Each host student was assigned an American teacher, who they escorted around the Daeil campus. They explained to us more about the school, the students, the faculty, the rigors of education at Daeil, and their highlights and challenges of attending Daeil High School.

Best of all, the host student visit included a trip home with the student to have dinner with their families and to visit with them in more detail. It was a great opportunity for students, parents and American teachers to talk in a more relaxed atmosphere about their lives in Seoul, South Korea. We were also able to talk about their weekly student schedules, how the Daeil School schedule has impacted the lives of the entire family, and what are their hopes and expectations of a Daeil education upon graduation.

My student’s name was Dasol Son. She is amazing! From the moment she introduced herself until she introduced me to her mother and brother at the end of the day, her English was spectacular. While she claimed that she struggles with English (but loves and seems to excel more with her fluency in Japanese), it was hard for me to notice any issues with her English because of her thorough and meticulous approach to making sure her sentences and thoughts were just right.

The host students did an excellent job presenting information about their school, their education programs and their college goals and aspirations upon graduation. They explained the different types of programs available throughout their tenure at Daeil High School, such as international voluntary programs and more than 30 active clubs that focus on student interests and talents from languages to poetry, literature and drama.

Following the presentation, students gave us an individual tour of the Daeil campus. Now keep in mind that the campus is on a steep hill. It consists of three large buildings cascading up the hill, interspersed with lush green gardens, playing fields and parking areas for parents, teachers and administrators. The campus is truly beautiful and exemplifies the commitment and focus that students and faculty have toward student education in foreign languages.


Teaching entrepreneurship at Daeil HS

While I was told to expect as many as 50 students in my class (which of course, I was), I was pleasantly surprised to find my class had 37 wonderful students.

Not only did they speak English with such fluency and fervor, but they were very interested in learning about entrepreneurship, factors of production, marketing and advertising techniques and how businesses work in America.

Best of all, my Daeil High School students learned about entrepreneurship, some of the thought processes that go into creating small businesses and some of the idea-creation that help companies create logos, just some of the components  as part of this entrepreneurship unit (similar to the one I use in my economics class back at Kennedy High School in Maryland). Students came up with small business names, logos for their businesses and alliances they had with other small businesses within the classroom.

Was there a class clown? Yes. An alpha girl? Huh? You’re probably wondering, what is that? I learned this is the class “brain” who seems to know everything, and yes, my class even had an “alpha girl” who, of course, was brilliant.

One of the best realizations that I found from my experiences with these students was that at the end of the day, kids are kids. They even laughed at my bad jokes! (my Kennedy students will know what I mean by that!)

I will always remember my times with the students at Daeil Foreign Language High School here in Seoul, South Korea. On my last day, I brought in gift bags for each of the students. They love gifts and the packaging is just as important in Korea as the gift itself.

So I enlisted the help of my sister while in Maryland to create gift bags with goodies for students which I would assemble once in Seoul, but I wanted them to have connections to our students and experiences in Maryland. So to represent my students, we gave each of them a small soccer ball to represent my students’ passion for soccer. We also included a pack of Starburst fruit flavors, which are manufactured at a factory not far from our school, and a Maryland magnet which highlights the many things to do while in Maryland.

Needless to say, my students at Daeil Foreign Language High School LOVED the gift bags and the gifts. They really liked the soccer balls as they love soccer here, too.

They had never experienced the Starburst fruit flavors, so it was a new type of candy for them. And they liked the Maryland magnet which they were able to take home and share with their parents.

All in all, it was a great time and a great part of my experience here in Korea. The students were wonderful and will always be a highlight of my trip.


Teaching at Daeil Foreign Language High School in Seoul

The primary interest I had in this Korean Studies Program and traveling to South Korea was the opportunity to visit and teach students in South Korea about economics concepts from my classroom in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. So I was very excited when the day arrived for us to visit Daeil Foreign Language High School, where I would be teaching in Seoul.

Some background on Daeil Foreign Language High School, the school was founded in 1983 to help students excel in French, German, Spanish and Japanese. The concept behind the school is to help these students succeed globally by having a firm foundation in global languages that will help students utilize their language expertise to build upon that by gaining a global education at colleges and universities around the world, that will ultimately lead to global business opportunities and job leads in the global community.

Today, students at Daeil are required to learn English as a mandatory language, and the school has additional full programs in German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Russian and Chinese for the 1,500+ students who attend this three-year high school before attending some of the world’s top schools, including Yale, Harvard, Penn, Oxford, Texas, Princeton, Boston, and many more.

This is not your ordinary public school. It is VERY competitive to get accepted to attend school here at Daeil and only 1,500 students are accepted each year to attend, which means about 500 new students each year are competing among thousands for a spot in their prestigious sophomore class (high schools in Korea are three years, typically tenth through twelfth grades).

Being accepted could make the difference between going to an Ivy League school in the US, going to the coveted Korea University, or else attending the equivalent of a community college, if any college at all. So the stakes are very high. I’ll talk more on the experiences of some of the students at Daeil when I share later in my blog about my conversations with my host student, Dasol Son, and her brother and parents about their experiences with Korean education.

More in the next blog post on my students and my class at Daeil. What an experience to teach here in South Korea!


Economics of South Korea

One of the highlights of our trip to South Korea is the opportunity to hear from guest lecturers at Korea University, the premier university of thought leaders in Seoul and southeast Asia. We had the privilege of speaking with Professor Keuk-Je Sung, a professor of economics at Kyung Hee University’s Graduate School of Pan-Pacific International Studies.

Professor Sung’s lecture, “Korean Economic Development throughout History,” provided us with an overview of the issues associated with the struggles for economic independence that Koreans have had over time. He spoke about where South Korea has come from in these struggles and how they have grown to become the powerhouse of Southeast Asia that they are today. With business corporations like Samsung, Hyundai, LG, S-Oil and Kia, South Korean companies are proving the business acumen to compete in the global marketplace. But it wasn’t always this way.

Dr. Sung talked about the five levels of labor that an economy faces as they grow: (1) assembling products with less than 100 parts, like televisions, (2) assembling products with 1000+ parts, such as automobiles, (3) developing technologies for products like telecommunications and more advanced microchip devices, (4) developing products for airplane jets and other advanced technologies, and (5) developing technologies for space exploration and futuristic modalities. These are the levels of technology by which an economy can be judged, from the most basic to the most advanced. He said South Korea is advancing in the fourth and fifth stages, showing the world how they are competing in the global marketplace in these new technological spaces.

One strength that Dr. Sung said the South Koreans have is the strong economic will to succeed at all costs. Their children continue to focus on education and advanced knowledge in math, science, languages and technologies is helping them to compete globally in the 21st century. But he also said concerns among South Koreans include an aging population, and the loss of institutional knowledge because sacrifice is generational (younger South Koreans don’t know and understand the sacrifices that older South Koreans had to make in the past, in order to be successful today) continues to plague concerns about corporate continuity and change management.

North Korea continues to plague the economy of South Korea. Dr. Sung emphasized the gratitude and importance of the role of U.S. servicemen and women to help promote democracy in South Korea. He thanked all of us on behalf of a grateful nation and reminded us that while older South Koreans may have wanted reunification to become a reality, the younger generation looks at unification issues in terms of their own economic success: they don’t want unification to allow North Koreans to take their jobs.

All of these issues continue to plague the economic environment, but remain in the background as South Koreans continue to engage competitors on the global stage. Dr. Sung reminded us that South Korea has few natural resources that they can export, which underscores the importance of education to use their technological know-how and business expertise to remain competitive.


Korean War Memorial Museum – Part II

The Korean War Memorial Museum was such a great museum that I had to take one more opportunity to post more details on what I found here. The significance of the flags flying outside the museum demonstrate those allies who supported the Republic of Korea (South Korea) during the war.

Most significant is the placement of the U.S. flag right next to the flag, a significant reminder of the role of U.S. troops who fought, bled and died for the freedoms that South Koreans continue to experience in their democracy today. It’s a powerful message of the numerous nations that have pledged varying levels of support, both militarily and financially, to support the government of South Korea over the last 50+ years. Yet all of this support is minor in comparison to what the American peoples and the U.S. Government have given to South Koreans since that time.

The thousands of American troops who lost their lives here will never be forgotten. This museum is a memorial and a testament to the ultimate sacrifice that thousands of troops have made, with their lives, to help maintain freedom and democracy in South Korea, and ultimately, in our own country as well.

Thank you, to all of the American troops who gave their lives, livelihoods and the families who made the ultimate sacrifice to help protect democracy here and around the world.

You have reminded us once again that freedom is never free. Thank you. We owe you our deepest gratitude, respect and admiration. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.


Experiencing the Korean War Memorial Museum

I will let most of the pictures speak for themselves, but I want to point out the sheer power of this museum. To see the names of all of the thousands of Americans lost to this war is such a gripping and powerful reminder of our significant role in helping South Korea maintain their independence from North Korea and their democratic government.

The statue that struck me most here was the “Two brothers” statue outside the museum. This shows two Korean brothers embracing, reminding people of the struggle during this war between brothers. While one may live in North Korea and the other in South Korea, it is a reminder that one happened to be located above the 38th parallel and the other below it.  Two brothers were torn apart by the 38th parallel and permanently separated by a war among family.

Lastly, I was encouraged to see (and hear) the gratitude that the Korean people have for Americans who gave of their lives and livelihoods to help them fight communism and help maintain their democracy within the Republic of Korea. War is never pleasant. There are always repercussions to war, but it was encouraging to see that the Korean people seemed to appreciate (for the most part) the sacrifices we have made as Americans to help their country succeed. Given the struggles of war in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it was heartening to know that the efforts Americans have made in Korea over the past 50+ years are not ones in vain.

Visiting Korea University

It is always an experience to see what universities and college campuses look like in other countries. Last year, I visited the University of Johannesburg and took part in an economics lecture and freshman econ lab that I ended up using back in my classroom at Kennedy High School. This time was no different.

The campus is immensely clean, collegial and has a warm and welcoming feel for students and visitors alike. Our university tour guides showed us the campus square where numerous demonstrations were held that spawned a movement across Korea for democratic reforms in government and brought an end to the Park administration’s rule. A very powerful message, akin to our demonstrations at Kent State or other American Universities during the Vietnam War era movement.

Students here are driven! And I mean driven! They study hard to get here and even harder once they get here. Many times, the competition for entry to Korea University is so intense that parents hire tutors, students study seven days a week, many times around the clock (you’ll hear more about this in my Daeil School post soon!), and use study groups (listen up, AP students!) to help them succeed in their classes. These students are highly intelligent, driven, and are preparing to compete in the global marketplace. And they will be ready!


Pyeongchang named site of 2018 Winter Olympics!

Shortly after arrival in Seoul, the world found out that Pyeongchang, South Korea will be hosting the 2018 Winter Olympic Games! The city was electric with excitement over this HUGE win for the people of the Republic of Korea. We are SO happy for them.

Check out the following stories and news coverage on this monumental achievement:

Reaction to Pyeongchang’s 2018 Winter Olympic win …

“I didn’t expect a victory in the first round, frankly speaking. I thought there would be at least two rounds. But well done, I mean the best one has won convincingly.” — Jacques Rogge, International Olympic Committee President.

“I had some confidence but I did not expect this number, 63 (votes). I believe that all the IOC members understood our message. I believe that all the IOC members understood our message. They understood it was right time, right place, right now.” — Cho Yang-ho, Pyeongchang 2018 bid chairman.

“Now Rio (Summer Olympics host, 2016) and us have shown other developing countries that with a good bid and a good campaign they can host games, too. It’s a great chance for developing countries to take hope to organize either the Winter Games or Summer Games in the future.” — Park Yong-sung, Korean Olympic Committee President.

Read the full story at USA Today.


Winning bid an emotional journey for Kim Jin-sun

From the Korea Herald – For Kim Jin-sun, Pyeong-Chang’s recent victory over two European rivals to win the bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics was a poignant moment. Kim, 64, had been an executive director for Pyeong-Chang’s two earlier, failed Winter Games bids. A three-time governor of Gangwon Province, where PyeongChang is located, Kim is a principal figure that launched PyeongChang’s Winter Games project more than a decade ago.

And when the alpine town beat Germany’s Munich and France’s Annecy in an International Olympic Committee vote in Durban, South Africa, on July 6, Kim could barely contain his emotions.

Read the full story.


Bobsleigh head sure of Pyeongchang success …

From the Korea Herald – Last week in Durban, South Africa, a group of Korean delegates were leaping and hugging each other with joy when the International Olympic Committee finally declared PyeongChang as the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics. Ermanno Gardella was there too, joining the festive crowd and enjoying the success of PyeongChang’s bid.

“I supported PyeongChang,” said the secretary general of the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation, or FIBT.

The 69-year-old Italian, along with other officials from the sports governing body, arrived in Seoul on Thursday, and they are now in PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers east of Seoul, to attend the two-day general assembly of the federation.

Read the full story.






Seoul, here we come!

After traveling 13.5 hours over the North Pole and the Arctic Ocean, losing an entire day as we crossed the International Date Line, and arriving completely jetlagged from the day/time differences, we touched down at Incheon International Airport just outside Seoul, Republic of Korea at around 3:35 am on Wednesday, July 6.

The dark runway didn’t deter us from looking out the windows to see what awaited us in Korea. It was an exciting time as we walked toward the baggage claim, went through customs enforcement, and finally passed through the claims area where we needed to make claims for any vegetative resources, etc. being brought into the country.

The Korea Society staff were right outside the gates holding signs welcoming us to Seoul, Korea and guiding us to the bus where we would be taken to our hotel in downtown Seoul. We met Hannah and Vivian, who were so friendly and helpful in making our first Korean connections to the program now that we were on the ground in the Asian continent.

So off to the hotel we went, traveling through the early morning hours to arrive at the Lotte Hotel Mapo, where they checked our luggage and we headed off to a breakfast buffet. Not that many of us were hungry, probably more tired than hungry, but it was great to be off of the plane and be able to walk around the restaurant and sample so many of the different foods (something we would get VERY used to doing in the days ahead).

After checking in and a short nap to try and catch up on the time change, we were off to the subway station to buy farecards and learn how to use the system. Having used DC’s Metro subway system for many years, this system is very similar. If anything, the system here is even easier, with card machines and add-fare-value stations all over each station.

The subway system really is the best way to get around. Traffic is very congested here in Seoul, much as it is in most metropolitan cities, so the subway is a very fast and efficient way to move around quickly.


In the news: Approve the free-trade agreements

From The Washington Post: The U.S. economy needs swift approval of the pending free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Yet a week after the release of a disappointing employment report, procedural disagreement over a program that has provided benefits to American workers for almost 50 years is stalling the entire trade agenda.

Read the full story.

Given political realities, the cost-benefit analysis should be clear: better to incur the fiscal cost of renewing the Trade Adjustment Assistance program than to lose the much greater benefits of free trade with three important trading partners.

Read the full story.