Emory Report
November 24, 2008
Volume 61, Number 13



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November 24
, 2008
Sunmudo demo celebrates Korean ties

By Amye Walters

A demonstration of Sunmudo, an ancient Korean martial art secretly passed down through Buddhist temples for generations, brought a taste of Asia to the Emory campus. Juliette Stapanian Apkarian, associate professor in the Department of Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures (REALC), deems the event a means to “bring Emory’s enormously important historic ties to Korea into vivid, contemporary context.”

The Claus M. Halle Institute for Global Learning, the East Asian Studies Program, REALC and the Emory Buddhist Forum cosponsored “Zen Art of Sunmudo” Nov. 11, featuring a demonstration by Grandmaster Jeog-Un Seol and his two assistants. Welcomed by Mark Ravina, chair of REALC, the monk spoke on the history of Sunmudo and the importance of meditation. The program reflects Emory’s strategic emphases upon internationalization, mind-body relationships and cultural diversity.

Visiting Associate Professor Myung Sook Bae served as primary organizer and translator for the event. As she explains: “Sunmudo was part of the University’s Korean religious diversity program. Korea has diverse religious traditions: Shamanism, Taoism, Christianity, Confucianism, Buddhism and indigenous religions. Many students said they had never seen Sunmudo or any similar performance before.” She continues, “Students get more interested in the language classes they study when they encounter the specific culture more often.”

In fall 2007, REALC launched a new program in Korean language and culture, and the following semester added courses in Korean studies. Two programs of language study are in place: a two-semester introductory language course for beginners and a two-semester language course for heritage speakers.

“The Korean classes are offered partly due to the Korean student body’s request,” says Bae, who has been instrumental in launching Korean coursework at Emory, where Koreans make up the largest ethnic population on campus. But demand for such coursework goes beyond ethnic Koreans, and she notes the consulate general and Korean American Education Foundation of Georgia have played a role in opening these classes.

A renewed grant from the Academy of Korean Studies, which Apkarian calls “a great distinction and the only one of its kind granted to a U.S. institution this year,” allowed Bae to continue teaching in the second year of Emory’s Korean language program.

Korean culture, according to Bae, survives and flourishes with the younger generations. “Although based on the old tradition, it is not a thing of old age. The tradition survived for thousands of years because of its relevance at all times with different emphasis in different times.” Bae is looking for exhibition space for her next effort, a photographic exhibit featuring Christian missionaries and shamanistic artifacts.