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Hangeul education on Cia Cia stalled

2011/10/10 | 475 views | Permalink | Source

By Kim Rahn

An Indonesian tribe's move to adopt Hangeul as its writing system is making little progress, as the ethnic group and its Korean counterparts have had a disagreement on financial support to the Indonesian city.

Mayor Amirul Tamim of Bau-Bau City on Buton Island in Indonesia, the home of the Cia Cia tribe that adopted Hangeul, severed relations with the Hunminjeongeum Society, a Korean organization which has promoted the ethnic group's use of the writing system, in March, according to the society.

Rupture in cooperation

The rupture in cooperation has suspended Korean alphabet education among the minority ethnic group, but the society is unable to come up with a response, saying it is not responsible for the situation.

"A Hangeul teacher from Korea came back in March as his visa expired. We were trying to send him again, but the Bau-Bau mayor didn't get a new visa issued and severed relations with the society", Paek Doo-hyeon, head of the society, said Monday.

Hunminjeongeum has sponsored the tribe's use of the writing system after signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Indonesian city in 2008, as part of an effort to preserve endangered languages.

It has sent teachers and provided teaching materials for the tribe.

Currently there is no teacher from Korea in the Cia Cia village, only an Indonesian native teaching Hangeul to the villagers.

Paek said the mayor's action was partly due to his political interests. "The politician wanted not only a writing system but also investment from Korea through ties with Hunminjeongeum. He hoped we would give some financial support but we've only sent teachers, so he cut ties with us", he said.

He said the society had planned to build a Hangeul culture center there but didn't because Mayor Tamim demanded a larger building than the original one, with the budget growing to 1 billion won from 100 million won.

The society head said the mayor's demands got bigger after Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) intervened in the initiative.

What is solution?

In December 2009 when Tamim visited Seoul, SMG signed an agreement with Bau-Bau on cultural exchange.

"At that time, there were news reports that Seoul would assist Bau-Bau's development.

So, the Indonesian city's expectations for support from Korea became high, but we, an academic society with a small budget, couldn't satisfy these. So Tamim decided to break up with us and is expecting aid from Seoul", Paek said.

Regarding the issue, an SMG official said the two cities agreed on cultural exchange and cooperation in Hangeul education, not financial support, adding Seoul has accepted all official requests from Bau-Bau.

"Since last year, traditional troupes from Bau-Bau performed here and this October, troupes from Seoul will visit there. Bau-Bau also asked us to train six of its teachers, who wanted to teach Hangeul, in Seoul, so we invited them and gave them training last month", a city official said.

He said the Indonesian city wants some support to build facilities but that's not what the two had agreed on.

"According to the agreement, what we can do is cultural exchange and support Hangeul education, such as training teachers and sending teaching materials, computers and school supplies. In financial support, there are many things to consider because the laws of the two countries differ. But basically, that's not part of the agreement", he said.

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