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Memories of the Academy of Korean Studies Memories of the Academy of Korean Studies
by Joseph Gatt
2019-04-22 07:39:45
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I studied at the Academy of Korean Studies as a Ph.D. Candidate between August 2011 and December 2014. So if you're reading this because you want to find out what goes on at the Academy of Korean Studies, here are the warnings:

-Dormitory rooms are shared and there is no proper heating in the dormitory rooms. That is, even when doing a Ph.D., you cannot get a private dormitory room. Furthermore, starting October, temperatures drop significantly. Because the Academy of Korean Studies is surrounded by a forest, temperatures tend to be around 5 degrees cooler than in Seoul, and can drop to minus 5 or minus 10 degrees. And they don't switch the heater on until late November, occasionally forget to switch the heater on, and only switch the heater on from 6 PM to 9 AM, in some cases later than 6 PM and sooner than 9 AM. I had to sleep with a coat on quite a few times, and had to move to warm coffee shops during the day to escape the room cold.

skor001_400_01-Cafeteria food was a disaster, and neighboring restaurants are very expensive, double the price of restaurants in Seoul. They rarely serve meat in the cafeteria (officially because there are many Muslims who don't eat meat, lame excuse) and the food is barely eatable. Even Koreans find the food barely eatable.

-The school allows professors to set up the rules for who gets to graduate and how. There are no clear graduation rules, except that you have to take 24 credits in the MA program and 36 credits in the Ph.D. program. How and when you take the qualifying examinations and defend your thesis is up to the professors to decide. The problem is professors tend to be corrupt - the more you bribe them the sooner you graduate.

-Finally, the school doesn't really look at academic potential when it chooses the students. Students are selected mostly on beauty criteria (the prettier you are the higher the chances you will get in) and on linguistic criteria (the better your Korean the more likely you will get in). This means that academic discussions tend to be non-existent. Students rarely talk to each other, I've only been invited for a drink once by a student, and a lot of the Ph.D. students are older than my parents, some are old enough to be my grandparents.

Now to the memories of the Academy of Korean Studies. I received my latter of acceptance on June 15, 2011. Between June 15, 2011 and August 13, 2011, I did not receive a single phone call or email. On August 13, 2011, I news saying that I had a Korean language test to take. Actually I was the one who called them, and they informed me there was a Korean language test on August 15, and they acted like I should have known.

I asked about whether I would get a dormitory room, and they told me I would get a temporary dormitory room. I got a temporary dormitory room, and the night before the exam, there were lots of umbrellas in front of the dormitory rooms, but no one really ventured out. You had a Tanzanian student and a couple of Egyptian students who were outside and I was socializing with them, but no one else ventured out.

I took a Korean test the next day, and the written test was a succession of newspaper articles that didn't make sense to me. We then had an oral test, and despite my Korean being excellent, the test administrator told me “your Korean is very, very bad” before I even said a sentence in Korean. Of course had I given her 100 bucks she would have praised my Korean. When I left the test, I was told by a student that I had to pay for the dorm room, and that the deadline was past. No one had informed me that I should pay for the dorm room.

I ended up paying for the dorm room, and back then got a single room, a room to myself. Most foreign students at the Academy of Korean Studies get a full scholarship of 750,000 won (around 750 dollars a month) but dorm room and meals not included, books not included. By January 2012 all rooms had to be shared.

We then had an orientation that lasted 40 minutes, very vague, no questions allowed, and all in Korean, despite many of the attendants not speaking Korean as they were part of the International Korean Studies program where all classes are taught in English.

I then chose the classes, and we had to pay for the books. Lots of money for the books, in one classes’ case, it was 175 dollars for the books, which were photocopies. I told the girl I could have got the books photocopied for 30 dollars, and she never talked to me again.

In the first week, my department, the sociology department, had something called a “study”. You pay 10 bucks, and then we meet and discuss a book. I thought it was a great idea, except that when I entered the classroom and made a few remarks, I was told to be quiet. What we are waiting for, I asked, and hush was the reply. A few minutes later a professor came in and started lecturing. I thought this was a study where we would discuss the book we were assigned, I yelled, and the professor kept lecturing and ignored my comment. I left the study, slammed the door, and was never invited to a study again.

Classes were a disaster, and I had never seen classes so disorganized. The professors had not read or understood the books they were assigning, and I was constantly the one lecturing in class. Professors would improvise activities, and the activities would often not work out. In one case, we were told to copy Chinese characters. I yelled that this was not fourth grade but a Ph.D. program, and stormed out of the classroom.

By the second semester, the sociology department had cut all ties with me, despite the fact that I was a sociology student. In the second semester, Ph.D. students need to choose a dissertation adviser, and you can only choose professors from your department (that meant I could choose one of four professors). I tried to convince the school to choose someone else, but the rules were rigid. I chose a dissertation adviser who from June 2012 to June 2014 thought I was an MA student. Needless to say, he did not know what a dissertation was, nor do I think he had ever written one. At least he kept changing his mind about what the structure of a dissertation should be.

I took a year off in August 2012 to become a professor at a Korean university. I never intended to go back to the Academy of Korean Studies, but got banned from teaching at all Korean universities and had to go back to the Academy of Korean Studies.

As a Ph.D. student you have to take 36 credits, in addition to 36 credits of Korean classes, in addition to achieving level 6 at the TOPIK examination. Doesn't matter if you can lecture the theory of relativity in Korean, you have to get level 6 at the TOPIK or take an internal Korean test. I took the internal Korean test twice, failed twice.

You also have to take qualifying examinations before you write your dissertation. I had written large portions of my dissertation, but failed three times at the qualifying examinations. I failed the Korean examinations and the qualifying examinations because I had never bribed the teachers and professors in any form. Of course the professors were expecting me to visit them with gifts. I tried to visit them to discuss my dissertation, and they sucked so bad I never visited them again.

Administration never calls or sends emails, and rarely updates the website. When you call and ask for information they tell you to refer the website. When they do notify you in the website, they do so in Korean, with long, verbose, incomprehensible posts. They don't realize that if they made things simple people wouldn't visit them in the first place.

By November 2014 I had taken all my class requirements, so I thought. I asked administration several times and they told me I had taken all my class requirements. But surprise! In March 2015, I got a phone call, saying that there was one class I hadn't taken. I was in a concentration camp, but thought I would resume the school when I would be liberated. My original liberation date from the concentration camp was due December 31, but I talked my way out of liberation on June 21, 2015.

The library is very small and lacks most classical books about Korea, and closes at 6 PM. Students never discuss academia or intellectual topics often because they are selected based on physical attributes or Korean language ability, not academic ability. And the place is very corrupt, you basically have to bribe your way to graduation. Professors make blunders when they lecture, don't know how to lecture, and keep improvising in their lectures. And 750,000 won won't buy you anything, students keep taking out payday loans and some are so heavily in debt that they have to beg for work or steal money from other students. In sum, if you got accepted by the school, don't go there.



    
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