York U students study South Korea in Seoul

York University students are living in Seoul, South Korea, during part of this summer term to study the country’s rapid change over the last five decades.

These students are enrolled in the third-year political science course, “South Korea: The Politics of Compressed Modernity”, one of the 11 summer study abroad courses offered through the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LAPS) in 2016. They departed for Korea on May 7 and 8, and will spend a month overseas.

York University students depart for Seoul, South Korea, for their summer study abroad course
York University students depart for Seoul, South Korea, for their summer study abroad course

“The focus of this course is the very rapid economic, political and social transformation of South Korea in the past 50 years,” says course director and political science Professor Thomas Klassen. “Last year, the course focused on the politics of youth and old age and on intergenerational conflict. This year, I’ve broadened the course and we’re going to undertake more field trips and field research.”

One of the new field trips is a full-day visit to a high-tech manufacturing company where students will suit up in gear that will enable them to walk the company’s production floor. They will meet with senior managers and production workers, and have been invited to join company staff for lunch.

“We’re going to have to get dressed up in environmental suits – white suits, cleanroom hats and footwear – which will be an eye-opening experience for the students,” says Klassen. “This will be an exceptional occasion for students to learn about a Korean workplace.”

York’s students will travel to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea to experience the last remnant of the Cold War. They will also spend some of their time studying with students from Yonsei University, with which York has a partnership agreement, as well as students from Kyung Hee University. Other activities include walking tours conducted by a local professor, as well as visits to museums and other sites.

“Being abroad is an extraordinarily rich learning environment as students immerse themselves in a new milieu, and conduct field research,” says Klassen.

He adds that living in Seoul provides students with first-hand knowledge of South Korea’s dramatic transformation.

Klassen has written extensively on Korea, and has spent several years in Seoul over the past decade. As such, he is delighted to share his knowledge of, and passion for, the country with his students. Students are equally thrilled with what awaits them.

“I am excited to travel to South Korea, not only to study the material for the course, but to learn the language, culture and customs,” says student Jamie Rudberg.

Manousha Romy Darius, another student, adds, “I have never travelled abroad and this is the perfect opportunity to explore another country and its culture. As a fourth-year political science student, I feel that it is essential for me to gain insight into South Korean politics. I look forward to meeting new friends and making life-changing connections.”

Some of the students enrolled in the course have connections to Korea.

“I am a Canadian-born Korean who has never been to Korea. This is a wonderful opportunity to experience, learn and embrace my roots,” says Sunny Cho.

“As a second-generation Korean, I’ve never had the chance to experience student life in Korea,” says Andy Jeong. “I hope studying abroad will allow me to explore the country and learn more about it.”

Klassen documents the trip on his website.

“This is a great group of students from several Faculties at York,” said Klassen. “They are going to be inspired by Korea and may find it difficult to return home to Canada.”