Week 2: Week two done too! Written 7/20

Howdy from Busan this time!

This week I had the opportunity to look into Busan Baewha School. Located in Busan, the second biggest city after Seoul, Busan Baewha school is one of the few schools that I have heard about constantly on and offline for being a prominent Deaf institution. On a side note, the school is also well known for being the first in all of South Korea to bloom cherry blossoms. Sadly there weren’t any cherry blossoms amid the summer heat when I visited, but I was welcomed by a little note that informed me of six alumnae from 99 years ago who fought against Japanese imperialism. They were recently (just last year—2018—to be exact) acknowledged as national contributors (sorry about the weird translation) when feminist organizations brought the issue up.

My American perspective of distance misled me to believe that Seoul and Busan were close enough, as it takes approximately 4 hours to get from one city to another by car. However, given the popular Korean saying, Seoul and Busan are as far as the North and South poles: from dialect, food, and little traditions to education and responsible ministry, the two cities and schools respectively left me with very different impressions.

Busan Baewha seemed a little more focused on including people with disabilities and the deaf community within society the way they are. In fact, the school’s motto is “생애단계별 맞춤형 교육으로 특수교육대상자의 성공적 사회통합 실현,” which translates into “Customized education for age/development stage leads to the successful integration of Special Education students within society.” This, at least from the impression I have been left with, is different from Seoul Deaf School in that Seoul Deaf School seemed to focus on having its students adapt and adjust to bigger society without necessarily forming a Deaf community within it. When it comes down to numbers, the differences also show in that more of the student population in Busan Baewha School have other disabilities along with being Deaf/hard of hearing whereas most if not all students within Seoul Deaf School are only Deaf. Moreover, it was interesting to see that the High School/Secondary School population of Seoul Deaf School is much bigger than that of Busan Baewha School, which only has one female student within its Secondary class. Seoul being a much bigger city and other factors should play a role behind the reason for this, but I’m curious if this difference in atmosphere also plays a role.

One thing I really liked about Busan Baewha School’s curriculum is that they regularly have guest speakers come over to talk about different issues such as culture, differences, self-love, disabilities, and more. One of the classes that I particularly found interesting is the photography class: a guest speaker, hearing, comes over with a unique topic related to “sound.” For example, the most recent topic was to take a photo of something that reminds the students of a sound that they expect to like. Some students took photos of ramen imagining what the sound of eating noodles might be, while other students took photos of the soccer field guessing how kicking balls might sound. A KSL interpreter joined them so that the hearing speaker and the students could share their ideas freely and discuss what they have in their minds. Photos are important to the Deaf community. While the hearing community shares individual stories with words, the Deaf community actively makes use of pictures to explain their experiences. I think it’s important that hearing people be a part of the Deaf cultural practices to understand them, while Deaf students have their cultural practice included within their educational curriculum. All in all, I think these classes enhance the quality of understanding on both sides.

While visiting the school and getting to know its curriculum was my main highlight of the week, I also worked on pinning different Deaf Institutions on my map and looking into more of the differences in curricula between Seoul and Busan. I believe this data will help me compare how other provinces within Korea are like as well. I’m also getting ready for the World Federation of the Deaf 2019 Conference happening in Paris next week, as I will be attending! I’m leaving the day after tomorrow (Monday) and coming back the following Sunday, spending a full week there. See you in my next post!