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August 02, 2013

Republic of Korea

Learning English in Korea - in the 1880s

korean-school-1880s.jpgThe Asia Society blogged yesterday with a brief but interesting glimpse of the English teaching scene in Korea at the end of the 19th century.

We all know that students have it rough in Korea. They go to school early in the morning and then after school spend several additional hours in private learning institutes studying math and English. These institutes are everywhere now, but they haven’t always been.

In 1882—just prior to Korea opening to the West—Koreans who desired to learn English had to travel to Japan. But not everyone viewed the study of English as a good thing. When one young Korean scholar confided to his friend that he wanted to learn English so that he could study Western books, his friend scoffed at the notion, declaring it was instead more acceptable to learn the Japanese language because “the Japanese were less barbarous than Western nations.” Learning English would turn this young scholar into a barbarian. When the scholar insisted on learning English, his friend threatened to kill himself as he could not bear to think of his companion becoming a barbarian.

Read the full post on the Asia Society website.
(Photo copyright Robert Neff COllection)

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