It has been another exciting year for the Sejong Korea Scholars Program (SKSP), an intensive online course on Korean history and culture and U.S.–Korea relations for U.S. high school students. Some of the highlights from this year include the all-star lineup of guest speakers, a revamped curriculum that added an introduction to Korean American history and experience, and a diverse cohort of 23 intellectually curious and hard-working students.
Each year, scholars and experts join students in Virtual Classroom (VC) sessions to share their scholarly knowledge and expertise on given topics. This year, the lineup of speakers included Professor Danny Leipziger from George Washington University, Professors Kyeyoung Park and Namhee Lee from UCLA, and Ambassador Mark Lippert, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea.
Students learned in detail about South Korea’s rapid economic development after the Korean War from Professor Danny Leipziger, who worked as Senior Country Economist for South Korea in the 1980s during his tenure at the World Bank. With Professor Namhee Lee, students examined the complex and intricate relations among the countries involved in the Korean War; and with Ambassador Mark Lippert, they explored recent developments in U.S.–South Korea relations.
This year, students were introduced to Korean American history within the context of broader Asian American history. They also learned about race relations between Korean Americans and other ethnic communities in the United States from Professor Kyeyoung Park, the author of LA Rising: Korean Relations with Blacks and Latinos after Civil Unrest (2019).
Students expressed their excitement to engage with the scholars and experts in VCs. Likewise, all of the scholars and experts who joined as guest speakers mentioned how much they enjoyed meeting the students and how they were impressed by the insights with which students asked their questions.
Each year, students from across the United States apply to participate in the competitive SKSP, which offers undergraduate-level content and rigor. Not too surprisingly, this year’s cohort of students demonstrated a strong intellectual curiosity, active participation in sharing their diverse perspectives and synthesis of the readings and lectures, and an excellent work ethic shown in assignments and a research paper. Many students mentioned how much they enjoyed interacting with their peers in the course, particularly in discussions, where they engaged in vibrant conversations about the course content in a respectful and positive manner. Many students frequently shared relevant external resources that they had found, which contributed to the richness of the discussion.
Student Clara Boyd commented, “It has been so rewarding and fun for me to complete the readings/lectures … and then discuss ideas with classmates, and it was really cool to have the opportunity to meet with different scholars and experts during the VCs. I always looked forward to interacting with the guest speakers and my classmates on Wednesday evenings! This program has been so impactful and eye-opening, and my perspective of Korea and the world has changed a lot since I started SKSP.”
Many of the students, who are taking multiple AP courses and participating in various extracurricular activities, mentioned that they have never learned much about Korea in their history courses. They are often surprised when they learn about Korean history that involves the United States and the long history of relations between the United States and Korea.
Some of the aims of the SKSP are to provide students with various perspectives on history, encourage them to develop critical thinking skills in assessing historical documents and evidence, and challenge them to interrogate common historical narratives and understand the complexities of history written from different perspectives. The analytic tools that students are encouraged and trained to develop in the SKSP will be a valuable tool as they continue to grow and expand as students and future leaders.