"I spend most of my time in Student Hall," she answers and smiles. Hiroko is a Japanese student, who came to DGU as an exchange student a year ago. The Post met with Hiroko on a warm spring day. Let's listen to her story.
The Post: What made you learn Korean?
Hiroko: When I was a sophomore at high school, I visited Korea on a school trip for four days and three nights to Busan, Gyeongju, Gunsan and Seoul. In Gunsan, we stayed at a school which was a sister-school to my school. There I made a Korean friend for the first time. I wanted to be close with her. I had never learned Korean and she did not know Japanese. We both could not speak English well. We had a communication problem either.
In Gyeongju, I met elementary school students. When they talked to me I had problems with communication, so I became more interested in learning Korean. After returning to Japan, I bought a Korean dictionary and searched the dictionary for words in order to write a letter to my Korean friend. It was not easy for me. So I decided to learn Korean by going to Korean language academy.
The Post: What made you choose DongGuk University (DGU)?
Hiroko: When I studied Korean in Japan, a man who was interchange student suggested that I study in the Korea.
At that time, I had to write my graduation thesis and I wanted to compare Korean with Japanese law. While I was looking for information about Korea, I happened to know DGU.
Our school has a sisterhood relationship with DGU and Dong-A university in Busan. I thought universities in Seoul would be better than Busan since those in big cities would have more accessibility to various information about Korea.
The Post: I heard you joined the Samulnori club. What made you become interested in that club?
Hiroko: In Japan, one of my close friends taught Korean music at Chosun school. She invited me to her music concert. I have never seen the Janggu in Japan and it looks so cool. When I came to DGU I told my friend that I wanted to learn the Janggu. That friend told me about the Samulnori club. I enjoy the club activities and the people there are kind. What surprised me was that most of Korean people are not interested in their culture and our club is not popular.
In the Samulnori club, I learned how to play the Janggu. I also went to Goseong to learn Talchum (a masque dance). I could not understand what they were saying because of their dialect. But it was fun.
The Post: Do you have any difficulties in taking classes?
Hiroko: Rarely. I can understand most Korean and the professor uses PowerPoint (PPT) programs. I do not have problems with my classes. Japanese has many Chinese characters and most of the law books are written with Chinese characters which I understand. When professors speak with a local accent, I have problems understanding their lectures.
The Post: Are there any differences in life styles between Korea and Japan?
Hiroko: I think Korea and Japan have many differences in life style. In Japan, age is not a big matter unlike Korea. Even when it is a first time to meet, Koreans want to know how old you are and talk about private things such as boyfriends. At first that made me uncomfortable.
Cosmetic surgery is also such a big trend in Korea. Most of the questions that I was asked were, "Did you undergo eyelid reshaping." (laugh) But not in Japan. Almost no one has a plastic surgery except a few celebrities.
Eating manner is different. In Japan, they use one plate per each person When I ate with Korean friends, I was surprised. Some friends gave food to me that they picked up with their chopsticks. At first I thought it was dirty. In Korea men are kind to women. When a woman is carrying heavy things, Korean men always help but Japanese men do not.
The Post: Are there things common in Korean and Japanese life styles?
Hiroko: Hmm. I think that fashions in Japan and Korea are almost the same. We also have national college entrance exam like Suneng. They apply for admissions to a school according to their scores. Each school has English and mathematics tests like Korea. Both Korean and Japanese students who have special skills (for example, singing, playing baseball, playing the violin) can apply for a special talent test. In Japan and Korea, there are terms of respect.
The Post: Is there any special place in Korea that you would recommend to a Japanese friend?
Hiroko: My Japanese friends are interested in palaces and history museums. So I would recommend Kyongbok Place and Deoksu Place. And I really enjoyed those places. I was surprised that the buildings were different from Japanese style. They looked so beautiful. The striking colors captured my attention and the scenery was breath-taking.
Lee Soo-jin email@example.com
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