In South Korea, university students are fighting to save one of country’s oldest Hindi language programmes


Just because the yr was drawing to an in depth, in December 2020, a gaggle of scholars and school members at Busan University of Foreign Studies (BUFS), unable to bodily congregate because of the South Korean authorities’s restrictions on public gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic, started utilizing social media platforms to stage protests. For weeks previous to the beginning of the protests, the Department of Indian Studies on the college had been contemplating phasing out the instructing of Hindi language on the college saying that data of English could be adequate for Korean nationals inquisitive about working, finding out and touring in India.

The Busan University of Foreign Studies that began its Hindi language division in 1983, together with Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul that launched its language programme in 1972, are the one two institutes of upper schooling the place Hindi is taught as a full-time topic for undergraduate college students and are among the many oldest establishments in South Korea with coursework devoted to the research of Indian languages, tradition and enterprise.

The Hindi language division on the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul was established in 1972 and is the oldest Hindi language programme in South Korea. (Photo credit score: Official Facebook web page/ Hankuk University of Foreign Studies)

In his second yr of research, and now enrolled within the nation’s obligatory army conscription, 24-year-old Lee Junhak’s curiosity within the research of Hindi began when he watched his first Bollywood movies, Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Om Shanti Om’ and Amir Khan’s ‘3 Idiots’, a decade in the past. The subsequent factor he remembers doing was selecting up no matter books he might discover on India and contacting Indians dwelling in South Korea to find out about their homeland.

On his first journey to India in 2016, Lee travelled extensively across the nation, spending time with households in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to study concerning the nation with no vacationer’s lens. That yr, he discovered himself enrolling in Pune’s Fergusson College to check Hindi.

“If you know Hindi, you can travel to off-beat places (in India),” explains Lee. When he returned to South Korea, he registered to check Hindi in faculty to enhance his language skills, Lee tells indianexpress.com in good Hindi, however utilizing phrases and phrases which have change into much less widespread amongst native audio system in India. He goals of publishing a guide in Hindi and dealing as a journey information for South Koreans selecting India as their vacation spot.

The college room within the Department of Indian Studies on the Busan University of Foreign Studies. On the door panel on the left, an indication says “Indian faculty” in Korean. (Photo credit score: Anonymous college member at BUFS)

The protesting college students took their complaints to the Embassy of India in South Korea and the department of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in Seoul for intervention, nevertheless it was their video message to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi looking for the Indian authorities’s help that the scholars consider added weight to their grievance.

“We had a Zoom meeting with the embassy staff and ICCR and they told us that they had written to the university. But we don’t know what happened after that. They contacted us after we published the video for Prime Minister Modi,” says Lee. According to him, casual polls carried out by the coed’s union confirmed that 86 of 102 college students who had participated in these polls stated they had been in opposition to the scrapping of the language programme.

After a number of public queries concerning the standing of dialogue between the college and Indian authorities our bodies, the Seoul department of the ICCR issued an announcement saying, “Ever since this matter was highlighted by Hindi professors at BUFS, the Embassy has been in touch with the top officials of the University. We will make all efforts to address the concerns of these students.”

Growing up in Bangladesh, 23-year-old Lee Soo-jin, would hear a mixture of Hindi and Bengali on a regular basis. “At that time, I didn’t realise the importance of Hindi. But after I moved back to Korea, I became distant from the language.” At residence, her mom spoke Korean and her Bangladeshi father conversed together with her in Bangla, however in South Korea, there was little to no alternatives to talk in or hear Hindi.

Certain that she had a head-start within the language, Soo-jin believed she could be higher within the language than different Korean college students. “India is getting bigger and bigger on the world platform. That is why I started searching for a college where I can learn Hindi properly. But sadly, there were only two colleges,” she says. Her protests to avoid wasting the Hindi language programme on the Busan University of Foreign Studies stem from her want to avoid wasting the one of many two departments in a Korean institute of upper studying the place college students like her, with goals of connecting with India can research.

A bookshelf within the Department of Indian Studies on the Busan University of Foreign Studies that has been curated by Korean and Indian college members for many years. (Photo credit score: Anonymous college member at BUFS)

Till final yr, between 50 and 55 college students would enroll within the programme at BUFS, however that quantity has come right down to 35 for the upcoming educational yr, after whispers of the scrapping of the Hindi language programme began doing the rounds, stated a school member who spoke on the situation of anonymity. The developments coincided with the appointment of a brand new division head who prioritised programs on enterprise in India and believed that English could be ample for Koreans specializing in India, college students say, insisting that their protests haven’t been launched with the intent to focus on the college or people in authority. The college administration didn’t reply to indianexpress.com’s cellphone requires remark.

Hindi language is taught on the college by three college members, of whom two are Indian nationals engaged on contract. “I have learned a lot about Korean culture because I studied the language,” says one college member, requesting anonymity. The division head’s argument that English will suffice for Koreans in India is flawed, he says. “I come from a small village in Bihar and no one speaks English there. It is not the common working language in India. Take Sarojini Nagar Market,” he says of the big market in New Delhi, “who speaks in English there?”

Having taught on the college for near a decade, he has seen numerous college students develop a deeper curiosity in studying Hindi as soon as they returned from their travels to India. This debate regarding the way forward for the college’s Hindi language programme comes roughly 4 months after the Indian authorities had introduced that it will supply Korean as one of many overseas languages taught at secondary college degree within the nation. The resolution had come following months of discussions between the Korean embassy and the Korean Cultural Center in New Delhi and the Indian authorities in an acknowledgment of the rising curiosity of Indian college students eager to study the language, the Korean Cultural Center had stated in July.

Over the previous decade, as the recognition of Korean popular culture exports have exploded in India, so has the will for followers to study the language. But there’s additionally the pull of upper paychecks and higher requirements of dwelling that Korean firms are offering for Indian workers, particularly these with Korean language skills.

This has been potential as a result of the Korean authorities has actively invested in selling their language and tradition and by encouraging Indians with plans of long-term keep within the nation. Indians in South Korea who had been interviewed for this report stated that the Indian authorities has accomplished little compared to promote both the nation or its numerous cultural traditions for Koreans to develop an curiosity much like their Indian counterparts. “Yes, there is a challenge in promoting a single language or culture as representative of ‘India’ but we still don’t do enough,” says an Indian citizen residing in Busan, requesting anonymity.

The campus of the Busan University of Foreign Studies in Busan, South Korea. (Photo credit score: Anonymous college member at BUFS)

If the division at Busan University of Foreign Studies had been to scrap the 38-year-old Hindi language programme, whereas it will imply a lack of job alternatives for Indian college members engaged on contract, however there are not any dearth of jobs for individuals with their expertise within the nation, given the financial and diplomatic ties between New Delhi and Seoul, the college members say.

“As a rising economic powerhouse and nuclear-armed state, India has emerged as an important regional power. There are innumerable opportunities for Koreans in India and I am one of those people who dreams of these opportunities,” says Soo-jin, “But before jumping into that, we must learn Hindi and their culture. We must understand their way of thinking and their daily lifestyle. I don’t think it will be easy enough to do anything there without Hindi…We can’t just ignore the fact; we must face it.”



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