Korean language program at Rice gets a boost from SK Innovation

In recent years, enrollment for Korean language classes at Rice has doubled to more than 100 students per semester. A key driver, according to Rice Lecturer of Korean Jayoung Song, is South Korea’s export of pop culture, fueled by the popularity of Korean pop (K-pop) music and videos on YouTube and serialized TV K-dramas.

Song was concerned that some students in the Korean language classes could not afford to participate in the Rice-in-Korea study abroad program, an intensive six-week Korean language and intercultural communication summer program in Seoul that was established in 2016. So she began working the South Korean Consul General’s office in Houston and South Korean energy and petrochemical company SK Innovation to solidify Korean programs at Rice and raise awareness of Korean language and culture on campus.

Thanks to Song’s efforts, Rice’s Center for Languages and Intercultural Communication’s Korean program recently received a $50,000 donation from SK Innovation to support a scholarship for the Rice-in-Korea study abroad program as well as for Korean cultural programs at Rice.

Immersive-language experiences are critically important and a priority for the School of Humanities, Interim Humanities Dean Lora Wildenthal said at an Oct. 16 check presentation at Rice’s Cohen House. The management philosophy of SK Innovation, which is “sharing happiness” in society, fits well with Rice, which is ranked No. 2 for happiest students by the Princeton Review, said Dong Soo Choi, president of SK Innovation’s Exploration and Production business.

Attending the ceremony were, from left, David Medina, director of multicultural community relations at Rice; Wildenthal; Rafael Salaberry, director of the Center for Languages and Intercultural Communication; Y. Ping Sun, university representative for Rice; Choi; JaeHui Kim, vice consul at the Consulate General of South Korea in Houston; Chung Ran Park, director of the Korean Education Center in Houston; Taewon Kim, head of SK Innovation’s Exploration and Production’s North America business division; and Song.

(Photo by Jeff Fitlow)

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.