Starting from 2019 Fall, HSS151 and HSS152, courses commonly referred to as Korean 3 and Korean 4, are now mandatory instead of Korean 1 and Korean 2. A TOPIK score of Level 2 is still a graduation requirement. These changes are applicable to undergraduates who entered KAIST in 2019 Fall and thereafter. The new policy is a part of President Sung-Chul Shin’s agenda to make KAIST a bilingual campus.
On September 4, a notification of changes to the mandatory general course requirements for international students was posted on the KAIST Portal website. The notice highlighted some important modifications to mandatory Korean Language courses in KAIST. Before this semester, HSS006 (Korean 1) and HSS193 (Korean 2) were mandatory. However, as of 2019 Fall, HSS151 (Korean 3) and HSS152 (Korean 4) are the new graduation requirements.Furthermore, international undergraduates will be able to register for the Korean 3 class only if they have joined and passed the new “Korean Language Camp” during their first winter break after admission, or if they have attained a TOPIK Level 1 or above. This encourages Korean beginners to either join the “Korean Language Camp” or take Korean 1 and Korean 2 before they register for Korean 3.
The “Korean Language Camp” is a four-week program that will be held in January 2020 only for freshmen. It compromises 120 hours of Korean classes which are equivalent to Korean 1 and Korean 2. The program prepares beginners to acquire sufficient Korean fluency to register for Korean 3. Freshmen admitted in 2019 Spring can also participate in this camp if they wish.
However, the new policy does not apply to students admitted from 2013 to 2019 Spring.
This means that Korean 1, Korean 2, and TOPIK Level 2 are sufficient graduation qualifications for students who already have attended one or more semesters at KAIST. They also do not need to participate in the “Korean Language Camp” during the winter to register for Korean 3.
“Making KAIST a bilingual campus is an important agenda for Sung-Chul Shin,” explained Professor Bong Gwan Jun from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Professor Jun emphasized that the changes were not introduced to increase academic stress but rather to aid international students in their acquisition of TOPIK Level 2. “As much as Korean students are learning English, international students should study Korean in order to promote campus-wide bilingualism. The new change makes sure that KAIST does its best to help international students improve their Korean.”
Professor Jun proceeded to comment on the controversial timing of the “Korean Language Camp”. “Since the Camp is only held for a month, there is some time in February for international students to return home. There are also lots of other ways to study for TOPIK Level 1 for students who are unable to attend.” He added that a pass/fail criteria for the one-month program will soon be decided and notified.
While the initial response among the international community is mixed, some are more frustrated with how the change was decided and announced. “A lack of official preliminary talks with KISA is regrettable,” stated an anonymous undergraduate student. “Building a bilingual campus is futile without making international students feel more included in [the] KAIST community. Simply changing policies that directly affect us without any consultation is doing just the opposite of what a bilingual and international university would do.”