On Thursday evenings, a number of foreigners arrive at the Jeju Migrant Center to learn the Korean language. Earlier this year, the center moved near to Jeju City Intercity Bus Terminal, in front of the public stadium at Jeju Sports Complex. The Thursday class is the basic course and just one of the Korean language programs which the center offers.

The students all come from different backgrounds. They are Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Indonesian, Malaysian, Vietnamese and American. Also, they vary in their professions and include factory workers, salespeople, chambermaids, housewives, a project manager for a construction office and a teacher in their ranks. Some have just arrived on Jeju, while others have been in Korea for years.

Lee Su Yeon, a Korean language teacher, has volunteered in the center for three years and was recently awarded a “Happiness Sharing Award” (Haengbok Nanum Insang) by the The Ministry for Health and Welfare for her work. “I teach Korean in the middle school [grade],” she said. However Lee added that she gains a great deal of satisfaction from teaching migrants and intends to continue this work.

Photo by Kim Miryang

Photo by Kim Miryang

Students introduce themselves at the beginning of the class and gradually learn to pronounce each other’s names. Practice in conversing in the Korean language helps to lighten the mood in the classroom, build confidence and improve Korean skills.

Vicheat and Chamroun, who are from Cambodia and work at a stone cutting factory said, “I want to speak Korean, but rarely get a chance. It’s very noisy at my workplace and I have to wear earplugs to protect my ears.” Despite a difficult work environment and long work hours, most of the students are positive in their approach to learning the language and study hard.

According to Han Yong Kil, the Secretary General of the Jeju Migrant Center, the objective is the successful integration of immigrants in Jeju society. “We think our programs have the potential to [help] diversity [on the island]. Students are expected to learn Korean and Korean culture as soon as possible, but then it is necessary to learn other languages and to have an appreciation for different ethnic groups.”

To achieve the aim of a Free International City, Jeju needs to embrace the concept of multicultural harmony. The Korean language course at the Jeju Migrant Center is contributing towards achieving that goal.

Jeju Migrant Center
33-1 (3rd Fl.), Seogwang-ro 2-gil, Jeju City
Tel. 064-712-1141 Fax 064-711-0243