Berkeley High School student Yiru Kim first became aware of a possible Korean language class in early February, when the School Director at Oakland Korean School was informing her of a need to implement Korean language classes in schools across the Bay Area. Kim suggested starting a Korean class at BHS, as the school does not have a Korean program in place and has a habit of supporting efforts to enhance students’ language and cultural skills.
Kim, who is also the president of the BHS Korean Culture Club, said “It’s our goal to provide students with the opportunity to begin a journey of Korean education, overall spreading the interest and love for Korean culture, language, and more.”
Wan Hee Kang, Director of the Korean Consulate Education Center, is working in tandem with Kim and staff members such as Principal Juan Raygoza to implement the Korean class at BHS. Kang hopes to create an opportunity for students to learn a new language and also learn about Korean culture.
According to Kang, a group of BHS students including Kim reached out to her, hoping to establish a Korean language class within BHS. Kang reached out to Raygoza, in hopes that they could work in tandem to set up a program.
“The process of developing a new class is a lot of work and can also take time,” Raygoza said. He explained that next year he will work with other members involved in the project to learn more about successful models of the course at other schools. “In order to have a new class approved for BHS, we need to go through the University of California Office of the President course approval process as well as submit for Berkeley Unified School District Board approval. “At the same time, it is absolutely critical that we see whether we can recruit a credentialed teacher.”
Kang has already made headway in finding a credentialed teacher, and if there is enough student interest, the Korean Consulate Education Center is willing to provide resumes of credentialed teachers and grants to quicken developments. Considering the numerous steps involved in this process, the earliest the class could be offered to BHS students would be in the fall of 2025, according to Raygoza.
“There is a lot for us to learn about offering Korean at BHS and we’re excited to take this on,” he said.
In an effort to gain student feedback about the future class, the Korean Consulate Education Center set up a survey to poll BUSD students. The form has received responses from 80 students, but Kang encourages more students to give their feedback on the Korean class, as it helps the district understand what is necessary in order to achieve a successful program. The results of the survey show that students are interested in exploring new culture and language, according to Kim, who is excited that students are so open to the class.
Kim encouraged any interested students, especially underclassmen who will, potentially, be some of the first students at BHS to take the new class, to submit any feedback or opinions they have about the potential Korean language class through the Google Form that was listed in the bulletin.
“Once Korean is introduced in (the) school, I am sure that the students can enjoy the very dynamic culture of Korean people,” Kang said.
Kim emphasized that her goals for the future of a Korean language class are to introduce it as a normal part of the language program that a variety of students take, and much like Spanish or French, offer a variety of levels at which students can learn, including AP and Honors.
“Approving this Korean class is also beneficial for many Korean Americans who are seeking to strengthen their relationship with their culture or learn more about it, especially through language since it plays a great role in communication and cultural identity,” Kim said. “We also are looking forward to getting middle school kids too because they’re the ones going into high school and coming into the school and maybe choosing Korean as a class,” Kim added, hoping to make presentations at the surrounding middle schools to gain student interest in incoming classes who might choose Korean as their language.
Students can find a link to provide input about the prospect of the class in the BHS email bulletin.