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ESC & 호적

My academy is part of a franchise that comprises 500 institutions in Korea and an additional branch in Beijing for Korean children whose parents work in the Chinese capital. The franchise headquarters puts on an English Speaking Competition (ESC) every year featuring the top academies within the franchise, with representatives chosen through regional qualifying competitions. Our branch took part in the north Gyeonggi-do finals, which were held in Ilsan this past weekend.

The courses at each institute are broken into three levels - phonics, intro, and main - with the intro level students tasked with performing an English skit at the competition and the main level students participating in an English-language debate. Only one of our main level students was interested in going to the ESC debate, and for the intro level students we used the results of an English Speaking Contest held in July to pick five kids to perform in the skit.

Our skit was written by the four Korean teachers at the academy, the 교포 teacher translated that into English, and I was responsible for the final editing. The plot is that a queen thinks her son is too lazy and invites three princesses to their castle as potential marriage partners for the prince. The three princesses (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella) each promote their strong point while the queen tries to use that against them. Snow White is strong from living with the Seven Dwarfs and doing outdoor work (but what if she hits the prince?), Sleeping Beauty has perfect skin from sleeping for so long (but what if she always naps instead of looking after the prince?), and Cinderella is a great cook after learning from the mice (but what if she cooks all day and ignores her other duties?).

What's interesting about how the plot develops is that the exchange between the princesses and the queen sounds similar to issues traditionally raised by a potential mother-in-law in Korea. (Or probably anywhere, for that matter.) A future bride needs to prove herself before being accepted into her new family, and with the emphasis placed on family histories within Korea this could generate interesting socio-political changes. (The ability for Korean names to affirm genealogy is brought up by Ask a Korean! in this post while the Korean Women's Development Institute has an informative piece on the January 2008 abolishment of the 호적/戶籍 family registry system here.)

How do the princesses ultimately respond to the pointed criticism brought up by the queen? They say "screw you" and go off to form their own kingdom. (The play included a song where they happily proclaim "we don't need a queen or a prince".) All four of the Korean teachers who wrote the skit are unmarried females in their late 20s or early 30s - when women are generally expected to marry here - but I'm reluctant to say that they meant it to be a satire of Korean social mores. Still, I wonder how much of that message will be internalized by the girls who participated in the skit and applied later in their life.

[ 戶籍 / Chinese household registries - I can't find images of Korean family registries ]

Our intro level students (fourth graders) took second place out of the 20 institutes competing in the regional qualifier. The academy director was ecstatic; in his mind second was the best place to finish, as it meant the students did well, but not so well that they'd need to spend more time practicing for the national finals. I'd describe the students' reactions with the oxymoron 'pleased disappointment'. They put in extra hours practicing three days a week - including one day during the weekends - and just missed out on advancing.

The main level student advanced out of the first round of debates but didn't qualify for the national final. Or so we thought. We were notified on Tuesday that all of the other students in the second round of debates had spent time living overseas and were thus disqualified. What a dramatic turn of events!

Our academy director constantly frets about our 학원 in comparison to others in the franchise; I hope the ESC results will make him feel better about the work we're doing. I'm really happy in the knowledge that, of the five intro level students who performed in the skit, four of them are students that I've taught for at least eleven of the past twelve months. Presumably this means I'm doing a decent job of teaching. More than that, though, is my hope that it will give them added confidence in their studies - English or otherwise.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 15th, 2008 07:25 pm (UTC)
I don't know there but here when you are reaching to your 30's and you don't have suitable candidate in order for you to get married they are always criticizing like saying "ohh look at her, she's into her work, her studies, she's going to end up alone" and is very sad because if is a tough girl and we need to be prepare and I know prince charming would tag along in the way, I just need to be patience... but that's just my humble opinion.

Oct. 16th, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
There's a big gap developing between the number of men and women in Korea - in the countryside there are only ~70 women for every 100 men - so I think that gives women more choice in who and when they marry. It used to be that women were expected to marry by 25 and if they didn't that was a big deal. I think the average age at marriage now is around 28.

I understand how you feel. Being patient is always the hard part.
Oct. 16th, 2008 03:19 am (UTC)
The plot of the story sounds interesting. And the response of the princesses are also quite... "modern" or "open" to what I had imagined Koreans to be.

But I must say that I somewhat agree their point ;P

The competition sounds fun! so do you all have to go somewhere for the competition, or do they just use recordings (since the academy has quite a few branches overseas too)?
Oct. 16th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
The response of the princesses definitely isn't "traditional", but it was really nice to see. :D

The students went to the competition but our director didn't give us a reminder or say where it would be held - at least, not that I ever heard. I only found out the night before when a student asked if I'd be there. =( I don't think the Beijing branch participates, but all the Korea-based institutes went (or should have gone) to the regional qualifiers.
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 16th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)
I was really bummed that I didn't get the chance to see them perform at the competition. Our director assumed that none of the teachers would want to attend on their day off and didn't give us a reminder or any directions of where it was held. I didn't even know it was that weekend until the night before - when a student asked if I'd be there. =(
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )