By Shim Hyun-chul
Students repeat a teacher’s words in a "hanok," or traditional Korean house. They learn Chinese characters and basic ethics through the text "sajasohak" and practice calligraphy. "It's exciting to study at an old school," said Kim Su-yeong, a second grader participating in the summer school.
This is a traditional way of learning at "seodang," the name of local private schools during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). Though seodang have given way to the modern school system, some students attend during their vacation to learn basic manners and ethics.
A summer seodang is open at Yeonghwiwon in Dongdaemun District, Seoul, letting children experience traditional learning. The royal tomb of Yeonghwiwon is the burial ground of Lady Eom, royal concubine of Joseon’s 26th King Gojong.
Calligrapher Chong Yong-chae has taken the role of this summer school's "hunjang," or teacher. "There is a saying that 'What is learned in the cradle is carried to the tomb.' Learning proper behavior in one's earliest days is important. Many of our traditional virtues have faded away amid rapid development, but I am glad that the Cultural Heritage Administration has created the opportunity to reproduce seodang," Chong said.
The summer course is offered on Wednesdays and Thursdays through Aug. 25. Call (02) 962-0556 or visit http://eureung.cha.go.kr for reservations.