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Becoming a Korean Lawyer–the Battle Between the Bar and Law School

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By K. Koo

After finishing my undergraduate studies in New England two years ago, I came back home to pursue a career in law. All had been going well, and in November, I was preparing for final exams to finish my second year in law school. But on December 2, most my classmates reported hearing rumors that that the Ministry of Justice had put an embargo on a press conference to be held the next day. Reasons for the embargo had not been given. All we heard was that the conference would be about the phasing-out of the Judicial Exam (aka the Korean Bar).

Then, the next morning at 11 a.m., the rumor came true. The Ministry of Justice announced that the official stance of the government was for a four-year delay in the phasing out of the Judicial Exam. That afternoon, law school students around the country—there are approximately 6,000 in total—assembled at their respective schools, and voted for resolutions that called for all students to submit official school withdrawal requests to refuse to partake in all classes and tests. Third year students (aka 3Ls) who are expected to take the exam in early January, also voted to refuse to sit the exam. All of this may seem rather bizarre to those unfamiliar with the legal education system in Korea. One may simply ask, “Why would law school students protest when law schools have nothing to lose?” Well, it’s not that simple.

By Lee Scott

The Judicial Exam has been the traditional method of “selecting” qualified individuals to be legally trained since 1963. In the law school system (just think of the U.S. counterpart), one, in most cases, goes through formal legal education and then passes the Bar Exam. Under the Judicial Exam system, individuals prepare legal knowledge to pass the Judicial Exam, and upon passing the rigorous exam, enter the Judicial Research and Training Institute for a two-year training program.

Passing the state-run Judicial Exam was a symbol of privilege, it was a sign that you were smart, that you persevered, that you beat one of the heaviest academic competitions in a country where such competitions commence in childhood. To “pass” the Judicial Exam, one has to go through the 1st Exam (multiple choice), 2nd Exam (written answers), and final test that consists of personal interviews (almost all candidates pass the third test).

The Judicial Exam acted to limit the supply of lawyers in the market; only in the 2000’s did it allow 1,000 entrants to the Training Institute (back in the 70’s, only 200 were admitted). The golden promises of prestige, wealth and honor came at the expense of those who never reached the end. Such promises lured “too many” people into the Judicial Exam. Historically, only three percent of applicants succeeded in getting admitted to the bar. Undergraduate education floundered since grade point average was not a factor in selecting qualified individuals to enter the Training Institute. Education in Law College was centered almost exclusively on theories and graduate studies, and students of other disciplines flocked to private institutions that provided prep for the Judicial Exam instead of developing academic competence in their own fields. The competition became increasingly fierce–the difficulty of the exam increased each year and students had to concentrate all their energy on preparing for it. There was also the problem that came along with the artificially controlled supply of lawyers; the graduating “class” of the Training Institute formed very close ties and the hierarchy among graduating classes continued well after the trainees were admitted to the Bar.

So the discussion began in 1995 to change the legal education system. More than 10 years and 80 hearings later, Korea adopted the Law School system. In all honesty, it was very, very out of the blue. I was enjoying my freshman fall in the States when the bill went through as a result of  political compromise. I had no idea I would apply to law school back then. Under the new system, students needed to have finished their undergraduate studies, taken the Legal Education Eligibility Test (LEET), finished three years of law school, and taken the Bar Exam.

As great need existed to protect those who had been preparing for the Judicial Exam, the plan was to phase out the exam. The phase-out was initially planned to end in 2012 but in the face of vehement opposition, it was postponed to 2017. Students began entering 25 law schools in 2009. There was some disharmony here and there, mishaps now and then, but the system slowly began to root itself.

Bar exam advocates protest its repeal. The sign says
Bar Exam advocates protest its repeal. The sign reads, “Even though we cannot enter Law School, we want to be judicial officers.”

But, beginning in late 2012, law schools were attacked for high costs and lack of transparency. Tuition varies among schools but is roughly in the range of $6,000 to $12,000 each semester. Interviews required in the admission process gave rise to conspiracy theories that the interviewers made unfair evaluations of law school candidates, and the non-disclosure of the Bar Exam scores (previously required by law but recently struck down due to its unconstitutionality) led to criticisms that law firms were hiring candidates with elite family backgrounds.

Leading the attack were young lawyers who passed the Judicial Exam rather recently. Most believed these young lawyers based their attacks on a sense of justice while others suggested a conspiracy theory-ish story that portrays young lawyers, who are threatened by what they deem as an over-supply of lawyers, as trying to limit further bar admits. And the media began its bashing too. Law school students were labeled “gold spoon,” akin to the silver spoon expression in English.  Any suspicion of any wrongdoing was reported as if it were true and all blame was directed at the law school system. (This is like saying Donald Trump’s utter ignorance is attributable to his Wharton School education.) The public mostly soaked up this propaganda as self-evident truth.

What did law school students do? Nothing. They believed that such false propaganda and factoids would disappear with the benefit of time, although probably not soon; at least once the Judicial Exam was phased-out, they expected fairer evaluation from the public. But the propaganda stuck. Politicians joined in, calling for the continued existence of the Judicial Exam, which, to the public eye, has become a symbol for fairness. On the point of “fairness,” granted, the Judicial Exam is “open to all.”’ But why would affirmative action ever make sense if “open to all” was all that matters? Anyone can apply to any college they wish.

Korean law students prepare to submit a box of student dropout requests.
Korean law students prepare to submit a box of student dropout requests.

So came the protest. And here are some personal observations and thoughts.

  • I think law school students are (or at least I am) angry due to two things. One, they’re fed up with distorted, artificial images of law school students that have been deeply ingrained in the media. Two, they have fundamental disbelief in the Ministry of Justice and “a few” young lawyers, who have never tried to improve or fix the law school system but are shouting only for the reinstatement of the Judicial Exam. We all know (well, some claim to be innocent about this) that having both the Judicial Exam and the Law School system operating simultaneously will only slowly impair the latter and eventually lead to its demise. (Japan adopted the law school system, but unlike Korea, a J.D. degree was not a prerequisite to take the Bar Exam–and as a consequence, almost all law schools are miserably failing. Many students either take the Bar Exam without or while attending law school)
  • Few people really care about this issue outside the legal community. Catchy slogans (“hope ladder,” “gold spoon,” etc.) may serve political needs quite well–but are voters interested enough about this issue? The answer seems to be no. Not many care about policy implications or cost-benefit analysis of different alternatives.
  • I have no idea where this will go. I don’t think anyone knows.
  • Some frown upon law school students for staging the withdrawal. I admit that there exists a high possibility that the withdrawal will not be processed. But many, including me, are considering withdrawing from law school if there is no responsible response from the government.
  • Some people cheer me up, telling me how they know I have studied hard, that I am doing the right thing etc. But I’m not sad or disappointed with people belittling me. I feel guilty. I feel guilty that my profile–from a foreign language high school, an Ivy-League graduate, upper-middle class, etc.–provides a point of attack when there are so many other hard-working students who toiled and earned their way into law schools, and have to weather stereotypical attacks.

UPDATE (March, 2016):

Well, not much has transpired–we ended our strike and took our final exams, and the 3Ls took the Bar Exam.

We’re waiting for a Congress-mandated committee to come up with a solution. The committee’s recommendation will likely be passed into law unless something extraordinary happens (I can’t imagine what such a thing would be). The committee consists of government agencies, law schools, etc.

So from the students’ perspective, nothing’s certain and anything can happen.

With the North Korea situation and the National Assembly election due to be held in April, the committee may be very slow in its decision-making. But, again, nothing’s certain. That’s what we live with.

The author is a student at Seoul National University School of Law.
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    Juwolsa Temple – 주월사 (Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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    The view from the Daeung-jeon Hall at Juwolsa Temple in Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do.

    Hello Again Everyone!!

    Located on the south-western slopes of Mt. Hwanghaksan in eastern Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do is the mountainside Juwolsa Temple. At an elevation of nearly 300 metres, you get a great view of the valley below.

    Climbing the stairs towards the compact temple grounds, you’ll pass by a pair of intertwining dragon based stone lanterns. These highly unique lanterns are only rivaled by the five tier pagoda with squat dragons around its base in the main temple courtyard.

    Behind the five tier stone pagoda is the Daeung-jeon main hall at Juwolsa Temple. The exterior walls to this hall are adorned with various Nahan (The Disciples of the Historical Buddha) murals. A variety of Nahan murals can also be found inside the Daeung-jeon Hall, as well. Resting on the main altar is a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined on either side by a crowned pair of Bodhisattvas: Munsu-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Wisdom) and Bohyeon-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power). To the right of the main altar is the temple’s guardian mural. And to the left of the main altar, and rather uniquely, are two white papered walls with a statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) taking up residence in an opening on the left of the two white walls.

    To the left and immediate right of the main hall are a pair of buildings for the monks that take up residence at Juwolsa Temple; namely the monks’ dorms and the temple kitchen. It’s up the embankment that you’ll find the next shrine hall, the Yonghwa-jeon Hall. Housed inside this hall is a metre tall statue of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

    But it’s to the right of both the Yonghwa-jeon Hall and the monks’ dorms that you’ll find the true stand-out at Juwolsa Temple. In this part of the temple, you’ll find the pond fronted Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Crossing the wooden bridge that spans the neighbouring pond, you’ll enter the older looking Samseong-gak. Immediately upon entering the shaman shrine hall, you’ll be welcomed by a unique Sanshin (Mountain Spirit) mural with the hypnotizing eyes of the tiger that stands next to him. Rounding out the set of paintings inside the Samseong-gak is the Chilseong (The Seven Stars) mural that hangs in the centre. This mural appears to have been painted by the same artist as the Sanshin Taenghwa, as is the lazing Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) mural inside the shaman shrine hall.

    HOW TO GET THERE: From the Uiseong Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take the bus that reads: “Uiseong – Hwamok.” With this bus, you’ll need to take it for 13 stops, or 26 minutes. Finally, you’ll need to get off at the Yangji 3-ri (양지3리) bus stop. From this stop, you’ll need to walk 1.4 km, or 21 minutes, to get to Juwolsa Temple.

    You can take public transportation, or you can simply take a taxi from the Uiseong Intercity Bus Terminal. From the bus terminal to Juwolsa Temple, it’ll take 22 minutes and set you back 12,000 won.

    OVERALL RATING: 6/10. This temple is situated in a rather remote part of the country in Uiseong, Gyeongsangbuk-do. With that in mind, the pond out in front of the Samseong-gak, the masonry behind the temple pagoda and stone lanterns, as well as the beautiful view of the valley down below, make Juwolsa Temple a pretty tempting place to visit in a little traveled part of Korea.


    The temple courtyard at Juwolsa Temple.


    The dragon base of one of the stone lanterns at the temple.


    Inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.


    The guardian mural inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.


    The white walls of the Jijang-bosal shrine inside the Daeung-jeon Hall.


    One of the Nahan murals that adorns the interior and exterior walls of the Daeung-jeon Hall.


    The Yonghwa-jeon Hall to the rear of the Daeung-jeon Hall.


    The Mireuk-bul statue that dates back to the Goryeo Dynasty housed inside the Yonghwa-jeon Hall.


    The wintry sky from the Yonghwa-jeon Hall.


    A look down on a snowy Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.


    A look across the frozen pond out in front of the Samseong-gak.


    The Chilseong mural in the centre of the set of murals inside the shaman shrine hall.


    To the right hangs this mural dedicated to Sanshin.


    And to the left hangs this mural of Dokseong.


    The snow covered view at Juwolsa Temple.

    I’ve never claimed to be a huge fan of Ghibli movies, but I do...

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    I’ve never claimed to be a huge fan of Ghibli movies, but I do think the characters are really cute and creative. Since I’ll probably never go to the Ghibli Museum in Japan, I made sure to check out the exhibit that made its way to Korea last year in Seoul and Busan

    Admission was steep at 15,000₩ an adult, but it really amazing to see these characters in 4D. The attention to detail was incredible, and there was something for everyone to enjoy. I hope it comes back.


    Hi, I'm Stacy. I'm from Portland, Oregon, USA, and am currently living in Busan, South Korea. Check me out on: Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Lastfm, and Flickr.


    Foreigner Tax Advice For Filing In South Korea

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    More than 500,000 foreigners are expected to file year-end tax settlements in South Korea for their 2015 income.

    Korea FM spoke with Seoul Global Center CPA Lee Jung-se & tax consultant Katie Klemsen to discuss tax tips & how foreigners can get free advice to avoid costly errors.

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    I completed a 100 day challenge where I posted a picture and...

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    I completed a 100 day challenge where I posted a picture and reason I was happy for 100 days on Instagram. I really enjoyed finding something to be happy about each day. Admittedly, some days were harder than others (e.g. either too many things to be happy about or having a day bad and couldn’t easily think of one).

    So, whether you’re happy or sad, try making a list of things that you’re happy about. I bet you’ll be happier than when you started.

    1. Day 1: In an effort to be more positive and to end this year with the best memories possible, a reason to be happy: how nice it smells when it rains… and having an extra umbrella at work on a rainy day!
    2. Day 2: The traffic and weather don’t look so great, but this is the view from my apartment. I love where I live! I have a roof over my head in the most bustling area of Busan. It’s noisy and I love it.
    3. Day 3: I’m happy that it’s Friday and I can have some Papa Johns’ leftover pizza -with pizza sauce and cider, of course. A party size Super Papas pizza is 37,500₩, but it’s the best pizza in Korea.
    4. Day 4: Camping on the beach.
    5. Day 5: Happy to play games -especially when I’m beating @robchrisman at Bananagrams. What’s a pieice, hmm?
    6. Day 6: I’m happy because I’m surrounded by beaches.
    7. Day 7: Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. Today we ventured up hills, up a mountain trail, under a fence, and traversed around large rocks (Orbicular Gabbro) to find this big cache. So much fun on a beautiful day!
    8. Day 8: Happy to be sleeping on a plush queen-sized bed with the softest sheets.
    9. Day 9: I’m happy for Coronaritas (margarita + Corona). That guy who’s flexin’ is pretty okay too. 
    10. Day 10: I’m happy for the amazing friendships I have, near and far.
    11. Day 11: Continuing with more amazing friends, I’ll add how happy I am to have a great leader/coworkers
    12. Day 12: New laptop! Yayayayyay! Thank you, @gtmcknight -also, for the trip to Japan.
    13. Day 13: Happy about the amount of travel I do, by plane, train, bus, car, and foot (never going to eradicate that last one). Blessed to have the magic American passport which makes things so much easier. 
    14. Day 14: This ramen is dank.
    15. Day 15: Whenever we order delivery from this place we get a fake rose. Almost have a dozen!
    16. Day 16: The view from my office is pretty sweet
    17. Day 17: Three things: 1. Costco, 2. Pizza sweatshirt, and 3. Trying on $200 coats.
    18. Day 18: Witcher 3 on PS4, all day!
    19. Day 19: Happy for delicious Korean BBQ -with cheese!
    20. Day 20Rob had this really cool thing made. It’s an image burned onto wood, of us at Seoraksan two years ago.
    21. Day 21: A lot of satisfaction from nabbing this mosquito!
    22. Day 22: Taco night with corn tortillas!
    23. Day 23: I love that Halloween is around the corner. These donuts are so cute!
    24. Day 24: Seomyeon underground shopping.
    25. Day 25: I made “foreign” food to sell at Busan Global Gathering Festival this year. Thanks for the laughs today.
    26. Day 26: Happy market day in Gwangan.
    27. Day 27: 떡볶이~
    28. Day 28: Lunch buffet at Pizza Hut for $8.75, one fresh piece at a time.
    29. Day 29: So thankful for my assistant who helps me grade all these exams! I can’t believe it’s week 8 of the term and midterms are here already! Also, working on Saturday to interview incoming freshmen. 
    30. Day 30Manofin regular sized hot americano for 990₩!
    31. Day 31: Interviewing incoming freshmen for university entrance. Wow.
    32. Day 32: Fireworks festival for the fourth time. This year’s theme: love
    33. Day 33: Thanks for the macaroons and life chat, @audrinawanders
    34. Day 34: My mom being my mom.
    35. Day 35: Statues in Korea are plentiful and often thought provoking.
    36. Day 36: Hi autumn!
    37. Day 37: Korean construction. Something’s always changing.
    38. Day 38: On the radio every Friday morning for the Busan wave, talking about weekend events for Busan Haps.
    39. Day 39: Halloween!
    40. Day 40: All day veg session. Relaxed, ate good food, and watched lots of tv and movies.
    41. Day 41: I like to imagine the conversations between animals in the park. Like… “Hey, give me a kiss.” “No.” “Come on.” “No.” “Fine.” “Aw, you never want my kisses.” “Come here.” “Okay.”
    42. Day 42: Happy for the plethora of restaurants to eat at in my neighborhood. This is at another pizza buffet, and, yes, I got a haircut.
    43. Day 43: Student activities, including the annual elections, make life at school fun. Their excitement is pretty contagious.
    44. Day 44: So many great chicken delivery places in Korea but 오꾸닭 is the best! I also like when @robchrisman makes a side dish, such as lime-cilantro-carrot salad.
    45. Day 45: 서울가는 KTX! 
    46. Day 46: Cuddles and fun at a dog cafe with 6500₩ Cafri beers. I love dogs. I wanna know what dogs do in their downtime when humans aren’t around.
    47. Day 47: Free museums make me happy.
    48. Day 48: Late night in Seoul Station with Taco Bell, Wayward Pines, and my boo.
    49. Day 49: Silly shirts for cheap.
    50. Day 50: Peppero leftovers from last year.
    51. Day 51: Bowling competition with my students.
    52. Day 52: I’m happy for my friendship with this man. He teaches me mindfulness, is up to gab about music/fermentation/life, and makes me laugh so hard. Those earbuds! Also, unintentionally breaking jars of glass! Good talks, good times.
    53. Day 53: Great show, Robscenity!
    54. Day 54: Beautiful day.
    55. Day 55: Dogs!
    56. Day 56: Leaves falling signal a season change. Pictured is the official tree of Seoul, the gingko -pretty but stinky.
    57. Day 57: Impromptu potluck with friends.
    58. Day 58: We love gummies.
    59. Day 59: So happy about Hajimama Retro Night! I’m going to have their songs stuck in my head for days.
    60. Day 60: I’m in Korea! I’m happy to have had the opportunity to live, work, and love in the land of the morning calm for four years -and counting!
    61. Day 61: Water show every hour.
    62. Day 62: When things are going good, life spins like a pinwheel.
    63. Day 63: Christmas decorations are up and the jingles are playing.
    64. Day 64: Christmas donuts at Krispy Kreme.
    65. Day 65: Happy thanksgiving in Korea! 20,000₩
    66. Day 66: Pretty sunset while riding the bus home.
    67. Day 67: Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Politically, I don’t like it. The idea behind it is questionable and America’s history is ugly -but if we aim to remember history accurately, we can celebrate togetherness and friends/family now. I had a fun night!
    68. Day 68: Saving the best for last. Thanksgiving, plate three. I’m a lucky (and stuffed) girl. 
    69. Day 69: Climate change is a problem we all share. 기후변화는 우리 모두의 문제입니다. 
    70. Day 70: I enjoy playing Witcher 3 so much that @robchrisman bought me the add-on adventure, Hearts of Stone -which came with Korean gwent cards. Fun!
    71. Day 71: Time for Christmas decorations and music!
    72. Day 72: Gettin’ 찌개 wit it. (I made that!)
    73. Day 73: Took this early in the morning. Waking up early makes me feel invigorated and happy. It gives me a great start to the day! 
    74. Day 74: Rooibos is my favorite tea, and December is definitely tea time.
    75. Day 75: All dressed up with the boys for a “fake” wedding. 
    76. Day 76: Lots of pretty light decorations at Ulsan Grand Park. @robchrisman thinks he could hang on this windmill for a full rotation…
    77. Day 77: Pizza in a cone! So good.
    78. Day 78: Packages from friends ❤
    79. Day 79: Nothing better than a good sweaty run. Exercise paves the way for growth in all other areas in life.
    80. Day 80: his lady on her motorized refrigerator, selling milk and yogurt. That pink visor, too.
    81. Day 81: I have a lot of good times with this guy -even when he’s stealing my prezzies in Little Big Planet. He wants to make me happy. He’s a reminder that in this moment, everything is perfect and everything is as it should be.
    82. Day 82: Girls’ night. Impossible to take a hands-free shot, though.
    83. Day 83: Korean hospitals are not full-service. For example, you need to bring your own utensils and slippers. The food is pretty good though.
    84. Day 84: I like how music can make me cry and laugh and feel so deeply. There’s usually a lot of random music (live and not) playing in the subway station. I think older Korean music sounds a bit silly but it also reminds me of my grandma, so it makes me laugh/cry.
    85. Day 85: Thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat available pretty much 24/7. Thanks, ROK.
    86. Day 86: Watching Star Wars in 4D before my friends back home.
    87. Day 87: @robchrisman made shakshouka for breakfast. It’s poached eggs in tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and spices. So great on nice bread!
    88. Day 88: Korean hospitals are funny. For example, to give a urine sample you take a paper cup to a bathroom all the way down the hall and then put it down on a table with a bunch of other urine samples (for who knows how long). I’m not sure if it’s trust, stupidity, or laziness. Sure is cheap though.
    89. Day 89: I’m so happy to be with the Sched team. The flexibility to be anywhere in the world and being in a medium where I add value really can’t be beat. Teamwork makes the dream work!
    90. Day 90: Busan is a beautiful place to live.
    91. Day 91: Party pack at E-Mart Traders includes six different types of meat and a sweet potato pizza. Too much.
    92. Day 92: Saw a modern dance performance! 춤패 배김새 30주년 기념공연
    93. Day 93: Some lovely obscene Christmas tunes to get us into the season. 
    94. Day 94: I am very appreciative of the good people around me this Christmas. Lots of laughs, love, and good food.
    95. Day 95: Visit to the Busan Museum of Art for the Andy Warhol exhibit with these two fun gentlemen.
    96. Day 96: Rock n Roll bar is great for Dr. Pepper shots and Reuben sandwiches.
    97. Day 97: Prices raised to $1.28 (1500₩) but still lovin’ the cheap americanos.
    98. Day 98: Star Wars tree at Shinsegae, the largest department store in the world.
    99. Day 99: Street Coffee with Rob at his workplace. He’s less than pleased (I’m the mayor).
    100. Day 100: Dressing up for New Years!

    Speaking English Fluently: What it Takes

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    Speaking English Fluently: What it Actually Takes


    I had so many students during my time teaching in universities in South Korea asking me what they could do to become fluent in English. What I told them and what I’m going to tell you right now is the very non-technical answer based on teaching ESL for 10 years, as well as the bits of academic knowledge I took in here and there through the CELTA/DELTA and various conferences.

    The Bad News First

    The bad news is that there is no shortcut to becoming fluent in a language. No magic pill, no magic program. Of course there are some good uses of your time, and also some bad uses but the reality is that it takes a ton of hard work to become fluent in English, or in any other language unless you happen to be one of those rare people who are just freakishly good at learning languages.

    The students who usually asked me that question about how to become fluent in English were usually the kind of lazy ones who saw their classmates speaking English like rock-stars and wanted that for themselves. They thought there would be some answer besides it’s a lot of hard work. There isn’t, unfortunately and there are no shortcuts to speaking English fluently.

    Vocabulary Lists: Not Going to Cut It

    Korean students love to do busy-work. They write down a million and one words on this piece of paper and then they write those words over and over again and feel like they’ve accomplished something on the way to learning English. They haven’t. They’ve mostly just wasted their time.

    If they were serious about actually learning English vocabulary, they’d have made flashcards, with Korean on one side and English on the other. Then, they’d start with 10 new words a day and have those down solid. They’d keep adding 10 more into the mix every single day. They would also mix them up randomly, forcing their brains to learn them independently from each other. They’d go from English—>Korean, but also the much harder Korean—>English every single day until those words became imprinted into their brains forever.

    Then, they’d start using those words in their daily writing and conversations, as well as keeping their ears and eyes open for them in whatever they’re listening to or reading.

    Extensive Reading: Time to Start


    Extensive reading is an excellent way to learn a language the natural way. Of course this isn’t possible for total beginners who would be much better off in a classroom, learning basic vocabulary and grammar. But, we’re talking about fluency here. The students I’m talking about have a good range of vocabulary and grammar already.

    Where extensive reading can come in is that students start to see how these structures are used in the real world. They’ll see all the stuff they’re probably learned from a book in a natural context. The key is to choose something at just a slightly lower level than they’re at so they’re able to just read, for pleasure without having to stop and get out the dictionary every two seconds, which is way too frustrating.

    I always suggest to my students in Korea that they start with teen fiction. The stories are quite interesting (I like reading them too!) and the language isn’t so difficult. Most university students in Korea who are half-decent at English could read one of these books without a lot of stress.

    Once they’ve masted that genre, it’s time to start reading more difficult stuff like in-depth magazine articles, adult fiction, or academic articles.

    Extensive Listening: Also Time to Start

    I would always tell my students to find a TV show or podcast that they found interesting. Then, watch or listen, without the subtitles. Just enjoy it. Do that every single day for an hour or two. It’s how children learn their first language-by listening to what’s going on around them. Adults can learn a language this natural kind of way too. It just takes time, and one or two hours a week isn’t going to cut it. It takes that amount of time every single day on a consistent basis for months or years.

    Going Abroad: Not The Magic Bullet

    Many students in Korea seem to think that studying English abroad is some sort of magic potion for speaking English fluently. The reality is that for some students, it is. They’re the ones who went out into the world, joined clubs, made friends, had non-Korean roommates, etc. But, there’s an equal number of people who stay in their little Korean world, just in a different country. Their parents spent thousands and thousands of dollars for their kid’s 6-month vacation.

    I’ve met a lot of Koreans (and locals from other countries while traveling) who were really good at English, despite never having been abroad for more than a week here or there. It’s really possible without wasting money on studying abroad.

    The Younger the Better

    There’s been a lot of research about when is the best time to learn a language. The consensus seems to be that around late elementary school, or the middle school years is the best time. The brain is able to handle some serious learning, but the neural pathways are still being formed. The moral of this story is that for learning a language, the earlier the better. Once you’re past the teenage years, it’s significantly harder (impossible?) to become fluent such that someone would mistake you for a native speaker.

    Motivation: More than a Grade for a Class

    The best students I had during my time in Korea were those who had some sort of motivation beyond a grade in a class or a score on a TOIEC test. They were learning English because they wanted a job that required it (working for a trading company, flight attendant, fashion designer, etc.), they wanted to go backpacking around the world, or they had some English-speaking cousins or friends, etc.

    Basically anything is better motivation for speaking a language than just getting a score on a test. While I don’t think that tests in a language class are terrible because they force students to solidify knowledge that is perhaps kind of fuzzy (What exactly are those rules for comparatives and superlatives? How exactly do I spell those words?), there is certainly a whole lot more to it than just a test.

    Language Learning Ability: Some People are Naturals

    Finally, some people are just really good at learning languages. I met a few students over the years who just seemed to pick English up naturally without a whole lot of effort. But, the reality of it that for every one of those students, there are 10 who are good at English because they put in a lot of hard work!


    In order to speak English fluently, students need practice. The best case scenario is that this happens out in the real world, but in a place like Korea that isn’t always possible. If you teach English conversation or speaking, check out this book on Amazon:


    39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities: For Teenagers and Adults. 

    It’ll make your lesson planning easy and will get your students speaking English and having some fun at the same time. You can get the digital copy for less than a buck!

    Speaking English fluently really is possible for your students!

    The post Speaking English Fluently: What it Takes appeared first on .

    Jackie Bolen: How to Get a University Job In Korea


    My Life! Teaching in a Korean University

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    South Korea Has World’s “Most Innovative Economy”

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    Bloomberg Business says “in the world of ideas, South Korea is king” as the ROK is the world’s most innovative economy for the 3rd year in a row.

    Korea FM spoke with Bloomberg’s Michelle Jamrisko & the Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Cheng to learn which factors influenced the ranking & why South Korea “dominates” the index.

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    10 Crazy Korean Superstitions

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    Every country has its own crazy superstitions. Korea has some fun ones too. A few years ago the "fan death" superstition in Korea became widely known across the internet, so I won't talk about that one in this video (spoiler alert: fans won't kill you, unless they're sharp and made of metal and you run head-first into one). Instead, check out these 10 traditional Korean superstitions that you might not have heard of before.

    Here are the 10 strangest, funniest, and most unique superstitions that Koreans have.

    Feel free to send in your own questions and they might be featured in an upcoming video.

    The post 10 Crazy Korean Superstitions appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

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    How Does The Death Of Internet Explorer Affect South Korea?

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    Microsoft has ended support for Internet Explorer 8, 9 & 10 in an effort to move users to IE’s final version & the company’s new web browser, Edge.

    Korea FM spoke with SUNY Korea Professor James Larson & ZDnet reporter Philip Iglauer to find out what the change means for South Korea, a country where Internet Explorer has been adopted as the internet standard more than perhaps any other country in the world.

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