Bringing People Together through Literature
DP / MYP Korean Language & Literature Teacher
Our Grade 11 DP Korean A HL students have explored a novel entitled “The Island of Sea Women(해녀들의 섬),” written by Lisa See which illuminates the life of Jeju residents set on the island of Jeju over many decades beginning in the 1930s. What is more surprising is that the writer is a non-Korean, an American writer. The novel focuses on the stories of Haenyeo, or Sea Women in the Korean language, who symbolize Jeju itself, and the students have paid more attention, in particular, the deep-rooted suffering and hatred and genuine forgiveness surrounding the April 3rd Jeju uprising. Mr. Siwan Seong, the Korean teacher said, “We live in Jeju, but we have few chances to understand the island of Jeju, so I aimed for my students to meet Literature closer within their daily life.”
Following the exploration of this novel, including presentations and discussions for nearly two months, one step further toward the ‘Time and Space’, 'Readers, Writers and Texts’, and ‘Culture, Communication, Representation,’ the class went on a field trip to Jeju 4.3 Peace Park in Jeju-si. There, they delved into the background of the Jeju Uprising and the modern and contemporary history of Jeju, which helped the students to realize that Jeju used to be an island of isolation and alienation and also long affected by hatred and discrimination, still one of the issues across the globe. The activities culminated with an hour-long online session with the writer Ms. Lisa See, to ask relevant in-depth questions in person, an opportune chance to share insights into how the writer envisioned people’s lives in the text.
Mr. Seong added that “This whole journey echoed loudly with our students in that they could further relate to their literature learning beyond the classroom, as we sometimes commemorate historical events as a mere formality and more often than not read novels for assessment. Thanks to all of my students who showed their passion, and special thanks go to Ms. Lisa See for taking her precious time amid the hectic schedule.”