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Beyond the Border in Your MindGlobalization at Yonsei Univ: Perception vs. Reality
Jeon Myung Assisstant Reporter  |
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승인 2006.04.01  00:00:00
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WHEN FINDING yet another article that deals with globalization in the newspaper, you may grumble, "Globalization again? Hey, I'm sick and tired of hearing that @#%!!$& globalization," while thinking that there is nothing new about it. It is true that globalization is not a newly arising phenomenon, and it is quite understandable for you to react this way, because the term "globalization" is probably THE most frequently used word in the 20th century. However, can you be sure that you are well-prepared for this era of globalization? Or are you just being swept away by the currents of time? The Yonsei Annals polled 1,004 Yonseians in order to find out how well-prepared Yonseians are to be global citizens.

Much interest but little experience

  In brief, the result showed that most Yonseians had significant interest in becoming globalized but did not actually engage into practice. To begin with, the Annals asked, Can you speak or are you learning any foreign language except English? and nearly the half of the students, 43.8%, chose "Yes". However, the 2004 Korean Time Use Survey (conducted by Korea National Statistical Office) found that only 11.3% of Korean college students replied that they spent more than 10 minutes a day studying foreign languages or preparing for qualifications. Meanwhile, when it comes to the amount of time spent on studying foreign languages, the situation changes. To the question, How long do you study foreign languages including English each day? the majority of the respondents (59.9%) selected "less than an hour," while 30.5% picked "1~2 hours" and 6.7% did "2~3 hours." Kim Yong-han, Dir. of External Cooperation Department of IWO (International Workcamp Organization) points out, "It is obvious that students of Yonsei University are aware of the importance of foreign languages. But considering the time spent on learning foreign languages, I don? think they consider it personally important."

  When asked if they were considering entering foreign corporations or pursuing careers abroad, more than half of the respondents (51.2%) answered that they were. In addition, many of the students, 38.4%, showed great interest in working for international nonprofit organizations which focused on world peace. However, the percentage of those who had ever joined international exchange programs hosted by Global Lounge or attended lectures given by foreign dignitaries on campus was less than 12% (11.9%) except the freshmen. Prof. Kim Chan-ho, who lectures on campus "Globalization and Multiculturalism," holds a similar view: he says, "Korean college students have a vague fantasy about foreign companies and careers abroad. They consider them as an escape from their stuffy situations. In addition, because they have to do so many things in four years of college, they try to make it in such a short time with a short breath, but they hardly make any long-term investments in their lives. Students don? realize the necessity of activities such as international exchange programs and lectures because those are not their no.1 priorities though those would be very helpful in the long view. For example, studying a foreign language meets both a short-term need and a long-term need, and that's why so many students are studying them. This is not just a problem of the students, but a problem for all of the Korean society."

  When asked, Have you ever joined any international volunteering program or friendship camp before? only 6.3% of Yonseians answered that they had. What is more, though 77.7% of the students replied that they were very much or somewhat interested in global issues such as war, starvation, and natural disaster, less than a third of them (30.3%) answered that they had volunteered on put their interests into practice; e.g. donating money for famine victims in Africa or joining an on-line anti-war demonstration. "[The participation rates are] way too low," says Kim Yong-han. He continues, "Despite what is widely known as the image of Yonsei, which is considered liberal and international, it seems that its students hardly participate in those kinds of activities. There are few universities which run global lounge on campus like Yonsei does, and what about the Song-do international campus project? The school is trying to go global, but I don't think its students want the same thing. Do they feel the need of it? Do they believe it's possible for them? Maybe, they are just thinking it is a story involving another world." The in-house analysis of IWO backs it up: the registration and participation rate of Yonsei both ranked seventh among the universities in Korea.

What makes the gap

  Through the survey, the Annals discovered that most Yonseians are very much interested in being globalized, but such interests are not quite developed into practices; they stay on the abstract level. Why so little development? Park Ji-hyun, Team Manager of Cultural Business Team of MIZY (Myungdong Info Zone of Youth), gives the answer: "Basically, it's because the students haven't settled up the concept of global citizenship of their own yet," she says. She points out, "The result of the poll proves it. The dominating number of the students (64.2%) uniformly selected 'those who see the world as an open concept, and try to think beyond ethical sentiments and prejudices' as a definition that best described who global citizens are. They must have picked it because they thought it was closest to the correct answer, just as they used to do when they took an exam."

  The students's attitudes toward globalization differed to the questions. The majority of the respondents (47.1%) replied that they thought "globalization had improved an individual? life." But as for the question asking the biggest changes that globalization had brought out, 38% chose "the incorporation of nations into the extremely competitive society" and 25.5% selected "the expansion of the economical gap between developed and developing countries." How can these contradictory replies be explained? "They are dual-thinking and this means that they are not familiar with the idea of global citizenship: they understand it with their heads, but they are not realizing that they are part of the world. In conclusion, this means that they have little understanding on the inevitable reality," she says.

Who are global citizens and why should we become them?

  Then who exactly are global citizens? Kim Yong-han determines them, "those who have no boundaries: [when it comes to us, who live in Korea] not Korean, but human beings." Meanwhile, Park considers them, "those who expand their identities, as well as escaping from nation-centered mindset." Plus, Kim Kyung-hee, Dir. Of Development for Education of Korean Committee for UNICEF, describes them, "those who actively cope with the stream of informationization, globalization, and openization that strengthen interdependence among nations in the world and are prepared to live in peaceful coexistence with neighbors in other countries, while achieving sustainable development."

  Likewise, there have been many other definitions given. However, there is no concrete definition yet. According to Prof. Kim, the concept of global citizen first came to the surface in the early 1990s. "The concept of global citizenship was first discussed in the Earth Summit, held at Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, but the concept was not defined in such a precise terminology. Not like what is commonly believed, the spread of global citizenship and globalization are not the same thing," he says. He explains the reason why we should be global citizens with realistic views. "Just as we could not stop urbanization in the past, we cannot stop globalization, either. The thing is that the number of global problems such as environmental problems increases every year, and such problems can never be solved by a single nation alone. Moreover, [Modern] Globalization has mainly been led by capital. Do you think it is okay to let capital rule globalization?" he argues.

  Still, some of you may wonder why you have to be a global citizen though you can live well in Korea, not concerning about what happens outside the country. However, can you be sure that you are totally free from the outside world? The answer would probably be "No" as the result shows: almost all of the students, 88.5%, replied that they felt "being affected by globalization" (42.4% replied "very much" and 46.1% replied "somewhat"). "Even if you?e not engaged in international business, your life could never be free from the influence of globalization. Whether it is invisible or not, we are living in a world where we affect each other. Qualities as a global citizen are essential to all of us even if we don't argue about our responsibilities and obligations in a big scale," says Kim Kyung-hee. "Globalization has already reached the level that no one can reject. Moreover, it's accelerating as connections between nations are getting stronger. Global citizenship is now a universal value for mankind," agrees Kim Yong-han with Kim Kyung-hee? opinion. Meanwhile, Park thinks beyond as she interjects, "We are all already global citizens." She stresses that a global citizen is not something to prepare for or choose, but a sign of the times.

Qualities required

  Once you realize the importance of being a global citizen, or acknowledge the reality that you are already the one, you might wonder how to be the better citizen of the world: one of the most important requirements is expanding your sphere of consciousness. Kim Yong-han believes that youth in Korea do not actually have a "world map" in their minds. "The absence of such a map in mind leads to an absence of interest in the world. For example, massive genocide occurred in Uganda, but you don? care so much, because you don't really know where Uganda is. Doesn't your world map include developed countries only such as the U.S., China, Japan, Germany, and France? That? too restrictive. The day has gone when we had to build limited partnerships and alliances with only strong countries," says he. Also, he mentions one of the controversial international issues, the clash between native French and the immigrants in Paris, and emphasizes the importance of change in mind: "Though France has long been focused on a multicultural mindset and tolerance in education, the riots still broke out," he says. The case concerning Kosians (Korean+Asian) is similar problem in Korea related to the French incident. "It? early to assume that Yonseians are ready to embrace Kosians only when the result shows that more than 70% of the students thought the Kosians should be given the same rights as every Korean enjoys, unless 'the social consensus regarding the importance of building a multicultural society' like that of Indonesia and Singapore is accomplished," he points out.

  At the same time, various experiences are required. Park says that contacting with other people is the quickest and easiest way to broaden your mind. Back to the Kosian problem, Prof. Kim marks out, "The majority of our students must have answered that Kosians should enjoy the rights as all do because there are no interests between them at all." Although his point is well-taken, still it is true that many youth in Korea have an antipathy toward the colored people due to a lack of experience in sharing their feelings and thoughts with people from other countries. In order to get ready for the new society to come, in which Kosians would make up a considerable part of the Korean population, improvement of consciousness alone is not enough. It is time to try to contact them directly and empathize with their feelings.

▲ Park Ji-hyun of MIZY (left), Kim yong-han of IWO (middle) and Kim Kyung-hee of UNICEF (Photographed by Lee Yang-jung)
*   *   *
  "The bird is fighting its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wishes to be born, must destroy the world." These are the famous lines in a novel, Demian, written by Hermann Hesse. Like the bird, maybe Yonseians need the courage to break their world. It seems that many of the students are so satisfied with being identified as "Yonseians" that they hardly make any challenge or risk it, but pursue something safe and stable. But as the world constantly redefines itself, we should also change ourselves: challenge yourselves to have far-reaching and ambitious goals, break the small standardized world that enslaves you, and finally spread your wings to a widely-opening world.

■ Can you speak or are you learning any foreign language except English?

NO 56.2%  YES 43.8%

■ How long do you study foreign languages including English a day?

3~5 HOURS 1.8% 
1~2 HOURS 30.5% 

■ Are you considering entering foreign corporations or taking up careers abroad?

NO 48.8%  YES 51.2%

■ Are you interested in working for international nonprofit organizations for world peace?

NO 61.6%   YES 38.4%

■ Have you ever joined international exchange programs hosted by Global Lounge or attended lectures given by foreign dignitaries on campus?

NO 88.1%   YES 11.9%

■ Have you ever joined any international volunteering program or friendship camp before?

YES  6.3%   NO 93.7%

■ How much are you interested in global issues such as war, starvation, and natural disaster?

VERY MUCHH 13.3%   
NEVER 5.5%  
LITTLE 16.8%  

■ Have you ever volunteered on put their interests into practice?

NO 69.7%   YES30.3%

■ How much do you think globalization influences your life?

VERY MUCH  42.4% 
SOMEWHAT  46.1% 
LITTLE  6.4% 
NOT AT ALL  0.5% 
DON'T KNOW  4.6%

■ How do you think globalization affects an individual? life?

IMPROVES 47.1%   
DON'T KNOW  42.9%

■ What do you think is the biggest change that globalization had brought out?

The incorporation of nations into an extremely competitive society  19.8%
The expansion of the economic gap between developed and developing countries  25.5%
The growth in an economic scale  13.7%
The endeavor for peaceful coexistence in the world  38%
other  3%

■ Since the early 1990s, the number of Kosians, whose parent is an Asian, mostly an immigrant laborer or a woman married to a man living in the countryside, has gradually grown. Some predict that in 20 years, they may make up for more than 10% of the Korean population. What do you think about these Kosians?

They should be given the same rights that Koreans enjoy  77.2%
They should be partially given rights  13.6%
Their rights should be restricted like those of non-korean citizens 1.8%%
don? know  7.4%

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