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Essay Contest Result

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Application of Understanding of Korea Materials

With the boom of Hallyu content and stars on one side, and with the impressive aesthetics of traditional food and historical culture on the other side, South Korea offers a perfect balance of old and new, offering plenty of reasons to visit the country at least once in one's lifetime. With so much information to take in about South Korea, the Understanding Korea series of books aims to deliver authentic and unique details of the nation and its people, standing as a credible source for those who are interested in the Korean culture and are willing to look deeper. The series continues to make contributions to satisfy the demand of foreigners' interest in Korea by making the resources easily available and rich in content, successfully releasing 10 volumes to this day. To increase the effectiveness of promotion and utilization of the Understanding Korea materials, I am proposing the following strategies.

Firstly, as an educational resource aimed for use by readers, educators, and students, the Understanding Korea series must adopt a one-source, multi-use (OSMU) approach for its materials. OSMU is a strategy aimed at diversifying the format of a product or service in order to maximize its value and sustain it in a long-term run. In the case of the Understanding Korea books, it is essential to apply this model for more effective promotion and utilization by its targeted audience. At the moment of writing this essay, the materials are available for download as pdf files on the official website. As teachers and educators are among its users, the resources could be more effectively used if there was a PowerPoint presentation format readily available with motion actions and more images to increase engagement by enhancing the visual aspects. While the books present comprehensive information on each of the topics, shorter and summarized versions accompanied by video visuals could be useful as well and should be easily accessed through common platforms like Youtube. Including subtitles in the videos or automatic translation of soft copies of the books could prove to be useful in increasing functionality. Another effective method would be to present information would be through combining all parts of the series into a single mobile application. This would allow readers of the materials to enjoy reading from their phones or tablets, as well as easily find relevant topics and chapters from specific volumes.

Secondly, I strongly believe that the content of the Understanding Korea books should also cater to another major audience group, which are the expats and international students living in Korea. According to the information from the Ministry of Justice released in February 2020, an estimated 2.5 million foreigners are currently residing in the country, accounting for 4.9% of the nation's population and with the number expected to increase over the years.

Consequently, to consider the interests of these groups, I am proposing a new topic for future issues of the Understanding Korea series - the introduction of rural Korea and the countryside, aimed for both travelers from abroad and residents in Korea. Foreigners may already be well-familiarized with the diversity of rural Korean areas through TV programs, especially variety shows. Among Koreans, going to the countryside to engage in recreational activities, such as camping, has long become a normal routine. Many tours are available with easy booking processes, and transportation methods for travelers who do not drive by themselves are abundant.

There are many reasons as to why I wish more awareness could be raised about the rural areas of Korea, despite some places still lacking information guides in foreign languages. One reason is that by visiting the countryside of Korea, one is able to better familiarize themselves with the history of this country. My personal experience of discovering the countryside of Korea began two years ago in Cheorwon. Located right at the border between South and North Korea, the county is home to many interesting natural and historical sites. As the northernmost county of South Korea and once belonging to North Korea after the division, Cheorwon is an authentic reminder of the Korean War. On my first visit there I was stunned to discover such a contrast of the environment in comparison to Seoul and the peace that it offered. Nature had a constant presence in the locals' lives, whether it was picking their harvest to have a meal during the day, or simply fishing to spend their evenings. Being so near the DMZ was also a constant reminder about the country's past and present. Instead of visiting the usual tourist route to Panmunjeon, I opted to visit the "2nd Tunnel" - created by the North Koreans with the intention of military invasion. Looking far into the dark tunnel that was cut off midway and gated to restrict entry to the part located in the North made me feel unsettled, as I felt that the northern land was so close, yet so far in many terms. The Peace Observatory left another vivid memory, whereby I was able to see a farmer in the wide northern land through a telescope, along with propaganda posters beside him. The division of the country never felt more real in any other place and I was convinced that the emotional experience of seeing such things helps to understand the history better. Over the years of visiting Cheorwon, I continuously wonder about how this is an experience many foreigners have yet to discover since it is not often promoted and seems like a difficult place to reach. While it was possible for me to travel there with ease with some knowledge of the Korean language, I felt that language or lack of guidelines should not be an obstacle for anyone to realize the potential of such destinations.

The second reason to introduce the countryside areas is that most travel materials present itineraries and tourist attractions are focused mainly on the well-known ones, especially in Seoul and Busan. While such guides are good for first-time visitors, foreigners who have lived here for a long time may be seeking new and unique experiences. Korea boasts a variety of experiences in countryside cities, whether it would be at a tea plantation, near the sea, or in the mountains. Moreover, readers of the previous books of the Understanding Korea series, such as "Hangeul" or "Geography of Korea", would be able to apply their knowledge into a real context and practice their Korean language skills.

The third reason is that through visiting the natural sites around the country, foreigners may come to understand the importance of nature in the Korean culture, regardless of whether one lives in the countryside or city. Foreigners may also come to realize that nature serves as an inspiration for many aspects of the Korean lifestyle, such as food and architecture. For example, Pungsu-Jiri, the Korean version of feng-shui, is commonly adopted into the placement of auspicious sites and even homes. One can easily note how Koreans believe in the importance of being in harmony with nature even during modern times particularly by understanding the meaning of mountains and land in the Korean culture, which are considered to be sacred symbols. A typical layout of a village would have mountains at the back and rivers or streams located in the front. Mountains are also believed to hold positive spiritual energies, affecting one's fortunes and different aspects of his life.

My proposal to encourage locals and visitors from abroad to explore the rural areas of Korea includes an activity presented as a Rural Korea "passport". This would be in the form of a brochure, which can foldable into a booklet, with each page dedicated to a suggested countryside destination. For each page, a circle is placed so that explorers would collect a stamp from that location. It is advised that such stamps should be made available in local train stations or bus terminals so that visitors could easily access it. As with a normal passport, the traveler would fill in their names, and may even include a photograph of themselves (as shown in the sample pages below). The brochure could then again be unfolded into a wholesome beautiful poster after they have completed their trips since vibrant background pictures of a particular location are used for each stamp page. This would be a great memory souvenir and will serve as a reminder of their achievements.
Brochure sample
Most importantly, to ensure that the promotion is successful, there must also be accompanying information content that would encourage people to feel safe and confident in traveling to rural areas. Many foreigners have an interest in the Korean language and learn it for personal or work purposes, however, there are still many who do not speak it fluently and would appreciate compiled guides and educational resources presented in their mother tongue or English. For example, the guide could include information on the 1330 Korea Travel Hotline, a useful provider of multilingual assistance as well as emergency services. I also believe that respecting the nature and living environment of people in any destination is extremely important, especially for areas that are not used to tourists. Hence, it would be acceptable to include a section on etiquette tips - explorers may note not to make noise in places near to residential areas, or not to litter near harvesting fields.

With continuous globalization and modernization, South Korea is on the path to accelerating development, giving the rural areas more reason to protect its uniqueness and remain as places of cultural preservation. Since the country has a dynamic presence in many fields and industries, it can be easily expected that the Understanding Korea series would continue to expand its scope of topics and advance the international image of Korea forward by providing captivating information to the international community.

[Excellence Prize]
Chin Shu Zhen Lena

(Country of Activity : Singapore)

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