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Sharing the Korean Economic Development Experience and the Future of Korean-African Relations: Korean Studies in West Africa, the Case of Côte d'Ivoire

Hee-Young Hwang
Hee-Young Hwang
Universite Felix Houphouet-Boigny
Korean studies program is West Africa, particularly through the case of Cote d'lvoire, lies in setting education and research infrastructure upon sharing Korea's economic development experiences with African countries. Its principal goals are to develop a well balanced curriculum promote research activities through seminars and academic exchanges on the other. Further goals are to associate with local entrepreneurs and policy decision-makers and to develop a West African network, with a view to enlarging sharing experiences of economic development of Korea.

The Significance of Korean Studies in West Africa

Korean studies in French-speaking West Africa is an important step in improving Korean-West African relations because we can share academic information on the economic development of Korea.

Unlike other regions of the world, Hallyu (or the Korean Wave) has not had a significant impact in West Africa. Reasons for this include low media penetration, relatively low internet access, and West Africa's pride in being the world's source of music and dance.

At the same time, West Africa, which is dominated by high poverty, regards Korea highly. Both regions share the experience of being colonized, and West African countries desire to have a partnership with Korea. In their eyes, Korea is a country that achieved economic success by developing technology.

Korean studies in French-speaking West Africa is currently being carried out at two educational institutions: Côte d'Ivoire's Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny (UFHB) and Senegal's Gaston Berger University of Saint-Louis. These initial steps have laid a foundation for Korean studies in the area, but there is still much work to be done in the future.

1. Korean Studies Graduate Program at Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny's School of Economics and Business Administration

1.1. History
The history of UFHB's Korean studies MA program is as follows:
- January 2015: Korea Foundation funded a visiting professor in the field of economics.
- November 2016: Began the Academy of Korean Studies' Seed Program for Korean Studies
- May 2017: Opened a Korean studies major (two-year program)
- March 2018: Korean studies graduate degree approved as a national degree program
- March 2019: First cohort of students graduated
- May 2019: Second cohort of students began the program

1.2. Participants of the Korean Studies MA Program and the Scholarship System
The following are the faculty and student participants in the Korean studies program as of August 2019:

Faculty: There are nine full-time faculty members. Four of these are Korean, and five are local. All five of the local faculty members are co-researchers of the AKS Seed Program for Korean Studies. Four are in economics, while one is in business administration. Of the four Korean faculty members, one is in economics, and three are in Korean language. The Korean language instructors are volunteers sent by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). The co-researchers' responsibilities include giving lectures and seminars, producing research articles, and guiding the MA students in their research.

Students: The total number of enrolled students is thirteen, and their majors are as follows:
- Humanities (3): Language (1), Literature (1), Philosophy (1)
- Sociology (1): Law (1)
- Economics and Business Administration (9): Agricultural economy (4), Regular Economics and Business Administration (5)

Funding opportunities: We provide each student with a monthly stipend of $100. We provide scholarships to all of our students instead of just choosing a few because of the communal culture of West Africa. $100 is enough for all the students to cover their living expenses, and this allows the students to focus solely on their studies.

International students and scholarships: Beginning with the second cohort, we accepted international students who could receive scholarships. We accepted one student from the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. We decided to provide this student with an extra $40 per month to assist with housing and living expenses.

1.3. Curriculum
The curriculum for 2017-2019 was as follows:
- Length of program: two years (total of four semesters)
- Credits: We use the French higher education system (LMD), and accordingly each semester for MA students must include 30 credits. The total program consists of 120 credits. However, the fourth semester is used as a training semester.
- Courses: There are five categories of courses (Korean language, Korean culture and society, Korean economy, Korean business administration, and electives and training).

Student must take 120 credits. The number of credits and percentage in each category is as follows:
- Korean language: 38 (32%)
- Humanities (outside of language courses): 9 (8%)
- Korean economy: 17 (14%)
- Korean business administration: 8 (7%)
- Electives and training: 48 (40%)

1.4. Partner Institutions
We cooperate closely with the Academy of Korean Studies and the Korea Foundation. Other partner institutions include the following:
- KOICA: Dispatch Korean language faculty, support Korean language training (4 months), support Korean studies related programs
- Paris 7 University (East Asian Studies, Korean Studies Major): Faculty exchange, material support
- KOTRA: Collaboration on activities dealing with businesses

2. Education

2.1. Educational Goals
The goal of UFHB's Korean studies major is to train individuals who can contribute to academic and professional exchange and development by giving them a deeper understanding and knowledge of Korea and Africa.

2.2. Korean Language Instruction
The demand for Korean language instruction in West Africa is relatively low because the people are not that interested in Hallyu overall. Therefore, there are no undergraduate institutions currently teaching Korean language.

Therefore, Korean studies graduate students must take their major courses alongside Korean language courses. We have built our Korean language program with the goal to prepare our students for the long-term so they can complete Korea-related research in the future. We also strive to prepare some of our graduates to go on to become Korean language instructors.

The Korean language program is mainly focused on functional aspects. However, we have some students who plan on writing research papers on Korean linguistics or Korean literature. We have some difficulties in guiding these students as we do not currently have faculty members who wrote PhD theses on these topics.

We face difficulties in obtaining Korean language textbooks, and it is also difficult to objectively gauge the Korean language ability of our students because we don't have easy access to the TOPIK test.

Outside of the Korean studies major, as of August 2019, Korean language courses have been offered for first year students in the Linguistics Department of the College of Liberal Arts. Korean language courses have also been offered as non-credit courses for the general public.

2.3. Education outside of Korean Language: History, Culture, and Society
As we recruited students for 2019, we found that demand for courses outside of Korean language, especially Korean culture, has increased.

However, we currently are not able to provide our students with many opportunities to receive education from experts or professors who focus on culture. First of all, there are not many Korean studies researchers in the French language. On top of that, there is a general lack of interest in Korean studies throughout Africa.

In order to meet these needs, we invite professors from Paris 7 University as visiting professors to teach special courses. However, due to the high cost of opening this type of course, we are still unable to fully meet demand.

2.4. Korean Economy and Business Administration
Because the Korean studies major was established in the university's School of Economy and Business Administration, a majority of the Seed Program's co-researchers are professors in economics and business administration. Therefore, we do not have any problems in opening and running courses in those fields.

Courses in economics and business administration are focused on sharing Korea's economic development. These courses include material on the history of Korea's economic development, policies, and company management, and the contents are closely related with the central topic of their research. The central research topic for 2017 – 2019 was "Innovation and Structural Change in Society: Comparative Study of Korea and West Africa." The main topic for 2019 – 2021 is "Innovation and Governance: Comparative Study of Korea and West Africa."

We have been faced with many challenges while trying to apply Korea's experience of economic development to Côte d'Ivoire. Korea has a different language, culture, economic structure, and geopolitical outlook than our students. Therefore, in a very short, condensed amount of time, we strive to give the students a clear understanding of Korea, help them carry out research, and provide them with the skills they will need to succeed after graduation.

We therefore encourage the students to use comparative analysis as their research methodology to examine Korea and West Africa. There are various possible types of comparative analysis that can be carried out, but one of the most interesting topics is similarities between management practices of Korea's corporations and West African culture.

2.5. Training and Employment Training
We use time between semesters to carry out training. We connect the students with Korean companies or with other fields that match their desired field of study. The fourth semester is a special training semester which is carried out alongside Korean language instruction and thesis seminars. We consider the students' research abilities and other aptitudes when giving them career guidance and advise them to either prepare for further studies or to enter the workforce.

3. Research

3.1. Seminars
Over the past ten years, Côte d'Ivoire has suffered greatly due to military coups and civil war. Some of the university facilities have been damaged, and the university had to close down for one full year. During this time, research activity has been severely stunted. Even against this background, though, we have held the Korean Studies Seminar about ten times since the program was established in 2017. The seminar has quickly become a staple on campus as other research activities have come to a halt. The theme of innovation and technology has also piqued the interest of both faculty and students.

In the future, we hope that the research topics will encourage government policy makers and key business people to participate in the seminar, providing an opportunity to interact with these social leaders.

3.2. Conferences
We established a conference to provide a place for the regular sharing of academic presentations. During the 2017 – 2019 period, we held one local and one international conference.

In the future, we hope to grow this conference from a way to share Korea's economic development with the general public to one in which professional researchers and policy makers will be attracted.

3.3. Research Articles
Four research articles were submitted during the 2017 – 2019 period. These articles are currently under review for publication in academic journals.

3.4. Guiding Student Research
During the 2017 – 2019 period, a total of 15 students enrolled in our course, and 11 of these students have submitted their theses and graduated. The remaining students are waiting for further examination.

The students' MA thesis topics included: Korean linguistics (2), philosophy (1), history (1), international relations (1), health (2), technological innovation (1), finance (1), cultural management (1), and marketing (1).

3.5. Connecting Research to the Locale
One of our remaining challenges is to expand the links between research and the locale. This refers to carrying out research and approaching the local society, but it also means that we need to apply economic and social development policies to the region.

To this end, we are continuing to expand exchanges with government agencies, organizations, international organizations and companies in Côte d'Ivoire. Specifically, we strive to work with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Planning & Development, the African Development Bank Group, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and trade associations. These efforts aren't limited to the borders of Côte d'Ivoire. In fact, we are expanding our collaborations to include the greater West Africa region by working with the chamber of commerce of Burkina Faso and the African Freedom Institute.

Cooperation with Korea comes in many forms: the Knowledge Sharing Program (KSP) run by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Korea Development Institute (KDI), programs of the Saemaul Globalization Foundation, KOICA's development cooperation program, and activities of the Korea-Africa Foundation. These programs have become part of our research to enhance each other, and we expect that future opportunities to collaborate will arise.

4. Cultural Activities and Expanding the Base

In addition to education and research, we also pursue programs which share Korea's culture. We plan on targeting the following groups to expand our reach.

4.1. Student Group
The most important student activity related to Korean studies so far is the academic exchange between students of UFHB and the French Department at Ajou University in Korea.

So far, there have been three exchanges on three different topics.
- The first was held on January 29 – February 10, 2019. Location: Abidjan. Topic: "The African Textile Industry, Handicraft and Fashion." Contents: Conference including presentation of topic, photo exhibition, and fashion show
- The second exchange was held on August 7 – 19, 2019. Location: Suwon. Contents: Summer School, Korean culture, history, joint research on cities and technology, field trips, and presentations
- The third was held on January 10 – 20, 2019. Location: Abidjan. Topic: "Côte d'Ivoire's Rediscovery." Contents: Côte d'Ivoire's agriculture (coffee), experience normal life as shown in media (movies), presentations after experiments and observation.

Other activities have included entering the finals of "Quiz on Korea" hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (and KBS), the first "Korean Culture Day" event held in November 2018, and a joint workshop on traditional music cohosted by the African Dance and Music Institute.

4.2. Professional Group
The most important keyword associated with Korea in Côte d'Ivoire is "(advanced) technology." In Côte d'Ivoire, Korea is viewed as geographically far away, and the amount of aid received from Korea is much lower than the aid from Western countries. However, Korea has a relatively high reputation as a nation with advanced technology.

This view of Korea as a technology powerhouse fits well with the goal of sharing Korea's economic development. In order to expand the base of activities, we will create a group of entrepreneurs, experts, and policy makers. Through regular meetings and the sharing of information, we will be able to expand the scope of mutual exchange.

5. Creating Korean Studies Infrastructure

The infrastructure for Korean studies is largely made up of information infrastructures and an infrastructure of researchers.

5.1. Information Infrastructure
Currently, we hold 723 books which can be used in Korean studies research. 39% are in Korean, 33% are in English, and 28% are in French.

A feature and difficulty in creating a database of books is the inherent lack of material in French on Korea's economic development. This is because much of the building of interest and research on Korea's economic development has been conducted by American economists.

5.2. Researcher Infrastructure

The French-speaking Korean studies network is based on researchers from RESCOR (also known as the Paris Consortium) which is centered on Paris 7 University, the Institute of Social Sciences and the Language Research Institute. RESCOR is strong in areas like Korean language, history and culture, but it is relatively weak in the areas of Korea's economy, politics, and society. As opposed to Korean studies in the US, French speaking Korean studies is stronger in the humanities.

Conversely, Korean studies in French speaking African countries has the potential to build a strong network of scholars focused on economics and business management, politics, and society. In Africa, literature and language are generally looked upon as academically inferior to social science fields. In Africa, economic development strategies and industrialization are topics that are more directly needed.

The largest obstacle to the formation of international meetings of researchers is lack of funding. In particular, the cost of flights between airports in Africa is very expensive, and the lodging fees are also expensive. In addition, the cost of starting Korean studies research is high because it is expensive to acquire the needed research material (foreign periodicals and books).

Outside of financial barriers, another barrier is language. Korean studies material in French are not abundant. In addition, much of the Korean language material on Korea's economic development was written in or before the 1980s. As such, it is difficult to read these documents without some translation because they contain many Chinese characters and Chinese words.

The Korean model cannot be transplanted exactly, but it is receiving attention as a model that can inspire development. Sharing the experience of Korea's economic development through Korean studies will only be fruitful if it is done with a long-term perspective in mind.

6. Remaining Work

The future work for Korean studies in West Africa is consolidation and expansion. In the long run, we must strive to ensure that Korean studies is run and reproduced by Africans themselves.

The most important factor in this process is to invest with patience until an advanced group of researchers has been trained and set on the right path. We plan on sending students to Korea to complete their academic training before returning to become the first faculty members in Korean language and economics. Until then, we must continue to support the building of researcher infrastructure and research networks.

Côte d'Ivoire will become a hub for Korean studies in West Africa and spread to neighboring countries like Burkina Faso and Ghana. The second cohort of students which entered in 2019 includes one scholarship student from Burkina Faso. This was a conscious decision with the idea of spreading Korean studies throughout the region.

We still have much work to do. We must continue to provide the basic environment for students to concentrate on their studies. In addition, we must ensure that Korean studies can take root here through excellent education and academic success even if financial management of the program is highly dependent on outside sources due to the lack of financial support from local university authorities.

[ Announcement of "2019 AKS International Conference on Korean Studies" ]

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