Published in Ewha Voice. June, 1999
Sitting in front of the main entry of the school, one can see students spill out of the campus as the sun slowly eases beneath the horizon. The bustling and chatter in the busy corridors fade as classes end for the day. Meanwhile, in another part of Seoul, school has just begun.
Lee Sun-mee (Mass Communication, 2) takes subway line number 5 and rides on and on until she gets to the last stop. She has a part time job, participates in a history club, and still finds time to study. Currently, she teaches social studies at Dasan Yahak, a school run by a volunteer. The school has no tuition and is open to anyone in want of knowledge.
Unlike such schools of the 80s, Dasan Yahak focuses more on the education of the individual student rather than providing a meeting place for demonstrators. Also, it is more of a school than a cramming academy and therefore values human relationships as well as studies.
Like any other student, Lee was anxious to experience all kinds of different things. Upon seeing a wanted ad posted in the ladies room, she started teaching out of curiosity. “Of course learning English or computers is important too,” she says, “However, I started teaching at this school to find the purpose and foundation of life.”
At Dasan Yahak, Lee discovered a whole new world. “Until high school, studying well was the most important thing. But in this society, I think that matters such as trust, responsibility, and hard work have more importance.”
There are all kinds of different people who gather to learn¦¡kids that dropped out of high school because of family problems, teenagers that go to the factory during the day, and aged men and women wanting an education.”They helped me throw away a lot of my prejudices and stereotyped thinking. I see people that work really hard for a living yet come here to study.”
Because she has classes every day from 7:00 to 10:30, one would think that she has no time for romance. In spite of her busy schedule though, Lee finds herself in a relationship with a fellow teacher at the school who is also a college student.
These days, where care and love for other people are becoming scarcer and individuality becoming more prominent, Lee is an example of one of the younger generation who is striving to make a difference. She is willing to share her talents with people that are desperately in need of them and in return is always open to new horizons. “I never think of my job as charity. Although I am the teacher, the students also teach me very precious things about life.”