What is Daily Life Like for a Kid in South Korea?
I met Choi Ye-eun (Chway yeh-oon) during her half-hour of free time between piano lessons and math class.
“What’s your name?” I ask her.
“Jenny,” she says, giving me her English name.
“What’s your Korean name I ask?”
최 예은 (Chway Yeh-oon) she tells me.
“How old are you?” I ask her. She tells me she is ten years old, although in American years she is only eight or nine. Do you remember how Koreans measure age? Babies are born one year old and gain a year on their birthday as well as the New Year. Sometimes people are one or two years younger when they measure their age according to the American system!
Yeh-oon is in third grade at Westminster Canadian Academy. Westminster Canadian Academy is an international school for students in grades one to seven. In International school students speak only English the entire day. Yeh-oon just started attending international school this year. She went to a regular Korean school for first and second grade, where her classes were taught in Korean. Yeh-oon also attended an all-English kindergarten where she first began learning English. Since she speaks English so well I was able to do the whole interview in English!
Could you say hello in Korean?
“Yeah! Annyohnghasayyo! 안녕하세요!”
Where do you go to school?
“I go to WCA (Westminster Canadian Academy), but I went to Korean school for first and second grade.”
What time does school start?
“Korean school was from eight o’clock to four o’clock but international school goes from 9:30 to three o’clock.”
Do you take a bus to International School?
“Mhm..small bus. There’s four buses maybe…”
The buses are just for the students?
“Yeah, just for students. No school bus teacher, just bus driver and students.”
Do you like your teachers?
“Yeah, some of them.”
In Korean school did you speak Korean?
And do you speak English in the international school?
Is it hard?
“A little hard. We have to speak English from nine o’clock to 2:30. In the bathroom, and lunch time and snack time!”
Do a lot of Korean students go to international school?
“No. In Korea not many students go to international school. I think many students go to Korean school.”
Do you have a lot of homework?
“Not in Korean school and not in international school, because the schoolbooks are not mine. Students borrow them.”
What’s your favorite subject in school?
“I like P.E. and art.”
Do you play sports?
“Mhm, I did soccer and bowling in WCA (Westminster Canadian Academy) and Korean school we have a gym, outside gym, so we just played tag, or running, or jump rope…yeah.”
Do you have recess?
“Yeah, in Korean school, but not in WCA (Westminster Canadian Academy). But we have snack time in WCA.”
What’s your favorite snack?
“Sausage… or cookies!”
What’s your favorite food?
“Do you know bibimbap? Yeah, I like that.”
Bibimbap is a traditional Korean food made by mixing rice and different types of vegetables together with spicy red pepper paste called go-choo-jahng. It’s very tasty!
“I also like Kimchi. My mom said, ‘Don’t eat very much kimchi! It’s salty!’”
Does your mom make good kimchi?
“No, my grandma does. She always gives us kimchi and it’s very delicious.”
Do you eat in a cafeteria for lunch?
“We have cafeteria in Korean school, but some Korean schools have no cafeteria, and WCA (Westminster Canadian Academy) does not. Now, I eat in the classroom.”
What do you do after school?
“It always changes, but like art, or now drawing class. Drawing cartoons. And, like, there is newspaper club and board games. But in international school there are so many classes after school, so many things.”
You said you like art, what’s your favorite type of art?
“I like to make things. With clay or with oodrahk” (oodrhak is a type of material that comes in thick sheets and can be used to build three dimensional models of pretty much anything you want. I believe it is named styrene in English).
Do you take a drawing class?
“I draw cartoons in school. I like cartoons. Like Mickey Mouse’s dog Pluto. When I look at a picture it seems easy, but then I draw it and it’s hard! I also draw Spiderman and Shrek. Oh, and Kung Fu Panda.”
Your brother said you were going to math class…
“Yeah, yeah today.”
Is that with your school?
“That’s separate. A math academy.”
What are some of the classes you take after school?
“Piano, math class, or I have two math classes. I also have science.”
Why do you take classes outside of school?
“Because after school is not very fun and there isn’t much to do.”
What do you learn in school?
“Math, science, English, art, reading and language arts.”
What do you want to be when you grow up?
“Always changes,” she tells me with a giggle.
What is it right now?
“It was singer, but yeah I like teacher too. Elementary school teacher.”
Who is your favorite celebrity?
“Um, Girls’ Generation.” Girls’ Generation is a nine members all girls musical group that is very famous in Korea. “My mom likes Brad Pitt,” she adds.
You must like Girls’ Generation’s music, what other music do you like?
“Um, IU. I don’t like many boy singers, but I like girl singers.”
IU is a Korean female singer. She is 19 years old and is called the Nation’s little sister because many Koreans are proud of her and feel like she is their little sister.
What do your parents do?
“My mom is a housewife, and my dad works in an office. My brother is a university student.”
What’s your house like?
“There’s a sofa, a TV.”
Is it a big house or a small house?
“Middle. There’s my room and mom and daddy’s room, and brother’s room.”
So, you have your own room?
“Yeah. My own study room, or playroom.”
Do you have any chores?
“I have to clean my own room, but sometimes the living room too.”
Do you like doing chores?
“No, it’s boring!”
What’s your favorite color?
“I like pink and yellow, but when I buy things there’s so much purple! My shoes are purple, my glasses are purple, and my jacket is purple! My mom said purple is my good color.”
I think your brother said you were coming from piano lessons…
Do you play piano?
“Yeah…My brother knows my whole schedule!”
Do you like having a brother?
“I wanted a sister, but I have a brother. I don’t like my brother. But, sometimes I like my brother, since he’s older. When my mom and dad aren’t home, he can cook mahndoo (traditional Korean dumplings filled with meat and vegetables) or snacks. The best thing is that I can go to the movies with my brother.”
If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?
“Me? I want to go to Disney Land. But, my friend went to Disney Land and said it’s not fun. But I want to go!”
What do you think about the U.S.?
“U.S.A.? I think U.S.A. people eat many hamburgers,” she says with a giggle. “But they are so nice and funny! U.S.A. or Canadian teachers (at my school) are so funny!”
Have you ever been to America?
“No. I want to go!”