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A New Way of Exploring Korea

May 4, 2016

Dr. Cho is the founding director of the Korean program at the University in the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures (ALL). In 1996, Dr. Cho moved from Korea to Minnesota with one goal: to receive his PhD in linguistics. Upon receiving his PhD, he planned to return to Korea and work as a linguistics professor. However, that plan began to change when he was asked to teach Korean as an extension class while he was here. “It was very small at first,” Cho recalls. “Sometimes we had to close the class because of low enrollment.”

When ALL was founded in 2000, the Korean program began to grow. Cho was “all in” and he began to deliberate with department chair Joseph R. Allen on ways to expedite the growth of the program. They decided to gear the program towards non-heritage students, who are students not of Korean descent. They developed a unique approach tailored to the student’s needs making them feel more comfortable while attending classes. “Before [they decided to focus on non-heritage students], many classes consisted of Korean students that were far more comfortable with the language than the rest of the students,” Cho explains. “The wide range of proficiency levels made it difficult for professors to teach and grade fairly.” The Korean program now has the largest population of non-heritage students in the nation, but Cho was still unsatisfied with the visibility of Korean culture in the community.

Many people in the University of Minnesota community are unfamiliar with Korean culture, as Japanese and Chinese cultures tend to be more common areas of study. This motivated Dr. Hangtae Cho to host an event that promotes Korean culture within the University of Minnesota community. The event is appropriately named “The Story of Korea,” and has now become the largest event that ALL sponsors. It was first held in 2014, and its 400 guests were able to become informed on trends of globalized mass culture in Korea, view exquisite Korean traditional clothing, and sample traditional Korean orchestral music from the National Orchestra of Korea. The event was held again in 2015, and guests received a hands-on experience with world class Korean calligrapher ByungChul Park.

This year, Cho expected greater attendance than previous years because people are starting to recognize the significance of the event. “This is a remarkable opportunity to experience high quality and true Korean art and culture,” Cho says. “The Story of Korea” took place on April 24th at the Hubert H. Humphrey Center. The event once again featured renowned calligrapher ByungChul Park and his team.

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.