Students in Democracy Prep High School’s Korean classes typically learn words that boost their vocabulary and develop basic grammar — standard fare for introductory foreign language instruction. But this week the lessons took a turn for the geopolitical.
Youngjae Hur greeted his students yesterday with an unusual pop quiz in English and asked them to define words such as “despotism,” “denuclearize,” and “repressive.”
For Hur, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il’s abrupt death over the weekend offered the school a unique opportunity to infuse what students learn about the South Korean language and culture every day with the politics that have shaped life on the Korean Peninsula for decades.
“It’s important to let them know not just the skills to understand the language, but also the culture, the history, the politics,” said Hur, a first-year teacher who moved to the United States from South Korea three years ago. “Especially at this special moment.”