S Korean teenager bucks trend, to study English in Nagpur

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Nagpur, Feb 3 (UNI) English is music to the ears of South Koreans who see fluency in it as an essential business skill.

Bucking the trend in her country, a South Korean teenager has decided to come to India - to Nagpur, to be specific - to study English rather than follow her compatriots to either the United States (US), Canada, the United Kingdom (UK) or Australia to brush up their skills.

''I love India. I love her culture, ethos and food. That is why I want to come to India to improve my English. It will also give me the opportunity to learn more about the country and its culture,'' the 15-year old Jun Yeji, from Seoul in South Korea, told UNI here.

If things go according to plan, she will join the Standard VIII class in a school here during the next academic session (2008-2009) and study for 2 years before returning to her country to take the high school examination there. This will be possible because South Korea has an informal education system that runs parallel to the formal schooling system, and wherein students are allowed to take an examination directly for middle school as well as high school. Yeji has already cleared her middle school examination through the informal system.

In Nagpur, though, she will be allowed the join the class, but not take the board examination for matriculation. ''While in India, I will also study Hindi,'' the tall, blonde and energetic Yeji said.

''My daughter just loves India. I don't know why,'' says her mother, Kim Shinae, a primary school teacher back home (Korean women retain their maiden name after marriage).

''The cultures of South Korea and India are pretty similar. The education systems in the two countries are also similar. The students there also have to study three languages - mother tongue Korean, English and one other language, which is usually a European language, besides mathematics, social sciences and science in addition to music, arts and sports. So I think Yeji will have no problems,'' she said.

''Youngsters from South Korea do know English, but they are not very fluent. Therefore, they all go to one of the four major English-speaking countries - the US, Canada, the UK and Australia - to improve their skills,'' Ms Shinae said. ''Nobody comes to India, leave alone Nagpur, to study English. So Yeji will be the first to do so, as far as I know,'' she also said.

It was 'love at first sight' for Yeji when she first visited India about two years ago with her parents. Father Jun Seonj Pyo, a preacher, had brought his family along when he returned to India to review the relief and rehabilitation work in which he had participated earlier in the Tsunami affected areas. Mr Pyo, who heads the Neighbour Love Church in Seoul, had come to India shortly after the disaster in December 2004, through an organisation of churches, to assist the effort.

While in India, the family spent some time in Nagpur at the home of Dr John Chelladurai, who heads the India Peace Centre (IPC) in the city. So when Yeji expressed her desire to study in India, Mr Pyo got in touch with Dr Chelladurai, who agreed to be her local guardian and help the girl get admission to a good school here.

''We have spoken to a few schools, and I am confident that things will work out fine,'' Dr Chelladurai said. Ms Shinae and Yeji are currently in Nagpur for finalise the admission and complete the formalities.

Incidentally, Yeji has already made friends with a girl her age, Ela, who belongs to a family close to that of Dr Chelladurai's. The two spend a lot of time together whenever Ela gets time off from her school and studies, with mischief and 'masti' high on the agenda.

The way the two girls have taken a liking for each other prompts Dr Chelladurai to comment that they are like sisters, and that Ela's mother, Ujjwala, will be like Yeji's foster mother in Nagpur. Her face lighting up, Ms Shinae draws on her very limited vocabulary of Hindi, which includes 'ek, do, teen, chaar, paanch, and Namaste,' and expresses her thanks with a broad smile and folded hands: ''Shukriya!'' UNI AB RP HS1210

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