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Russian Second Graders Studying Korean

Posted April. 07, 2006 09:10,   


At Public School 151 in St. Petersburg, the second largest city in Russia, second graders are studying Korean. The school, the first to teach Korean as a second foreign language, began offering Korean in September 2000.

Natallia Lee, the head teacher of the school and an ethnic Korean from Kazakhstan, said, “Korean is more popular than German, which is also taught as a second foreign language.” In the school’s Korean classes, there is not a single ethnic Korean. All of the students are Russian.

Nearby Public School 177 is also teaching Korean as a second foreign language. St. Petersburg, often called the “Window to Europe,” is witnessing increasing interest in the East. Public School 151’s original plan was to teach Japanese or Chinese. But thanks to Lee’s efforts, the school changed its plans and offered Korean instead. Public School 177 teaches Korean in large part thanks to the efforts of ethnic Korean head teacher Anasia Kim.

Public School 151’s students and their parents traveled to Korea last year thanks to a grant from the Korea Tourism Organization. After the trip, even the students who used to study Korean just because it was mandatory to study a second foreign language have become interested in Korea.

Elizabeth Smirnorva, a 19-year-old graduate, is a freshman majoring in Korean studies at the University of St. Petersburg. She said that she wants to go to Korea to study Korean literature. Public School 151 even provides extra Korean classes for students who want to major in Korean studies in college.

St. Petersburg has a strong historical bond with Korea. In 1997, the University of St. Petersburg established a Korean course as part of its Oriental studies offerings for the first time in Europe. Now, in name and in deed, the city has become a center of Korean studies where one can learn Korean from elementary school to university.

Ki-Hyun Kim kimkihy@donga.com