Week 1: A little late but just in time (I think)! Written 7/13

Hello from South Korea! I have been reading and getting ready from quite a while ago but only “started” my actual research last week as I landed in Korea. While I was a little worried about this delay (I was supposed to come at least two weeks ago), I was lucky enough to get in contact with Seoul Deaf School’s faculty member right away.

On Monday (7/8) I received a tour of the school and asked some of my burning questions about Deaf education in Korea and its changes over time. I have read about the recent legislation on Korean Sign Language (KSL) becoming an official language in South Korea, hence expected schools, especially public schools, to be switching their gears to incorporating more KSL in their systems. (Here is the article that I read about the legislation: https://medium.com/@tchoi8/korean-sign-language-is-an-official-language-in-korea-now-8d7d49dfb633)

Here’s also a fun little poster students made (I helped too!) in celebration of the new law that was passed on the last day of 2015:


However, unlike the expectations for this new law and the potential it has to develop the Deaf community, change seems slow, especially when it comes to education. I was particularly sad to hear that Deaf schools still don’t necessarily use KSL within their curricula. This led me to think about why that must be so, and further led me to research in depth the history of Deaf schools in Korea in relation to the history of KSL and Deaf society. I realized from this that there just has not been too much movement within the community until recently when Deaf identity and pride has become a huge concept within society. Upon this note, I also looked into solutions as it seemed as if the field hasn’t tried too many different solutions regarding education inclusion. An interesting argument regarding Deaf education I found is that Deaf schools must employ Deaf teachers and deliberately educate sign language. Japan’s case of Deaf education being the most representative, this argument tackles the hardship of including both students who have went through the cochlear implant surgery process and students who can only communicate through sign language. Japan’s Deaf school in Sapporo, Hokkaido offers three different methods in communication: 1 Japanese Sign Language, 2 Finger spelling and oral methods for those who use hearing aids and/or have gone through surgery, and 3 a separate group catered in particular for students who have alternative disabilities along with being hard of hearing and/or deaf. I hope to be able to talk to different people such as Deaf students who have gone through Deaf schools or have gone through regular schooling to discuss this plausible solution and its limitations based on their experience.

Throughout this week, I had the opportunity to research the history and the bigger problems within Deaf education here in Korea. As I went through my research and reevaluated my proposal to interview those within the Deaf community, I realized that it made more sense to focus on those specifically related to Deaf education and thus narrowing the boundaries. Therefore, unlike the original plan, in which I aspired to listen to testimonies of how KSL has built Deaf identity in those who are Deaf and have been using KSL as their primary language and those who haven’t (the criteria being whether the parent(s)’ are Deaf or not), I decided to shift a little and focus on schooling, thus the criteria being whether the Deaf student has gone to a Deaf school or not. I have to talk to my advisor more on this as I still want to incorporate KSL as a factor that builds Deaf identity, but as my research is primarily on Deaf education, I believe the shift is necessary.

Next week I believe I am going to visit another school and get ready for my Paris WFD conference. See y’all next Saturday!