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Hangeul goes global: How Sup Sogui Hosu brings Korea to the US

By Annika Kim | 기사입력 2022/10/24 [16:21]

Hangeul goes global: How Sup Sogui Hosu brings Korea to the US

By Annika Kim | 입력 : 2022/10/24 [16:21]



Hangeul Day, celebrated on October 9th, is more venerated than ever globally as Korean culture reaches more and more countries. From traditional Korean foods and customs to the popularization of modern K-media, different aspects of Korea have brought together enthusiasts of Hangeul to Sup Sogui Hosu (literally a lake in the forest), a language learning program founded in 1999 as part of Concordia Language Villages. It is located in Bemidji, Minnesota, and it works to immerse visitors in Korea through its yearly summer programs. 

 

Professor Dafna Zur is the dean of Sup Sogui Hosu. During the academic year she teaches at Stanford University as a professor of Korean Literature and Culture. She shared her point of view as someone who has worked at Sup Sogui Hosu for 18 years, helping bring Hangeul to a new generation of villagers every year. 

 

Q: Could you give us a brief introduction of Sup Sogui Hosu and what it offers to visitors? 

 A: We call our participants, “Villagers”. We are not a school or a museum. We are a village. We create a “home environment” in which Korean is learned in an authentic setting of shared passion and care. Villagers enter a full immersion space – our counselors only speak Korean to villagers and to each other. 

 

Q: Who has donated 5-million-dollars and how was it used for Sup Sogui Hosu? 

A: Our generous donor from the Simone Corporation, has given the seed money for the construction of our very own authentic Village. Seven other languages at Concordia have their own village: German, French, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Spanish, and Russian. Korean is the eighth and the very first Asian language to have its own village. 

 

Q: What initially drew you to Sup Sogui Hosu? What does your work entail? 

A: I was brought on as a counselor in 2000 by the founder of the Program, Professor Ross King. He was my MA and PhD advisor. I started out as the Taekwondo instructor and language counselor. I have worked at the Village for 18 years, including the last 8 years as the director. I am responsible for hiring staff each summer and ensuring that the program is thriving 

 

Q: What is the history of the language village? How has Sup Sogui Hosu come to be? 

A: Sup Sogui Hosu was established in 1999. It is one of 14 language villages of Concordia Language Village, a non-profit organization that was established in 1961. The visionary language teachers who established the language villages in the early days believed that summer camp, with its empowering experiences, would be an ideal place to learn language. In 1999 – this is before Hallyu — the primary target audience were the many adopted Koreans that have settled in the Midwest since the 1960s. Minnesota and South Korea have a long and interesting shared history. Hangeul Hakkyo has traditionally been set up to educate second generation Koreans. However, Sup Sogui Hosu from the start taught Korean as a global language, to anyone who wanted to learn it, regardless of heritage, religion, or level. 

 

Q: How has growing popularity of Korean culture, particularly the Korean language affected Sup Sogui Hosu?

A: Our enrollments have grown exponentially over the last few years. Since 2013, we have waiting lists for many of our programs. 

 

Q: What do you think draws non-Korean people to learn about Korea? 

 A: I won’t call them non-Koreans, since there are many heritage speakers (2nd and 3rd generation, mixed-race learners, adoptees) are Korean and are interested in Korean as well. People are drawn to Korea for many reasons. Some are interested in the language and Hangeul; some are interested in Korea’s premodern and modern history; some are interested in North Korea; some are interested in Korean martial arts; some are interested in gaming, food, fashion, cosmetics, K-drama, and K-pop. Some are interested for family reasons. Some are interested in Korea because they have Korean friends at school. There are many reasons!

 

Q: Has the pandemic affected your program? Do you have any options available for people who can’t currently come to Sup Sogui Hosu?

A: Yes, of course. All camps around the world, that rely on in-person participation, were devastated by the pandemic. We had healthy enrollments in 2019 but had to cancel in-person programming in 2020. We pivoted to online teaching, but that is against the philosophy of immersion. Today, we continue with online activities throughout the year, but in the summer only offer in-person participation. 

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