Korean folk tales now in Guatemala's public school textbooks

Korean folk tales now in Guatemala's public school textbooks

Lim Jong-sik, right, superintendent of the Gyeongsangbuk-do Office of Education, and Guatemalan Ambassador to Korea Marco Tulio Chicas Sosa, hold a textbook for elementary school students in Guatemala, at Lim’s office in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, June 7. Courtesy of Gyeongsangbuk-do Office of Education

By Bahk Eun-ji

Most Koreans know the traditional folk tale, “Heungbu and Nolbu,” a story about two brothers which contains the moral lesson that good people are blessed and greedy ones become unhappy.

Now the famous folk tale is also being printed in a state-published textbook for elementary school students in Guatemala, a Central American country with a population of 18 million. The story is written in Spanish in the textbook for Guatemalan fifth-graders.

Some other Korean folk tales are also provided for students in other grades there, including: “The Rabbit and the Turtle,” “Two Good Brothers” and “The Brother and Sister Who Became the Sun and the Moon.” Even the story of Dangun, the mythical founder of the first Korean kingdom, is in the textbook for sixth graders, according to the Gyeongsangbuk-do Office of Education (GBE).

The natural science textbook for middle school third-graders also introduces Korea and the Korean alphabet of Hangeul, its traditional dress known as hanbok and its economy.

Korean folk tales now in Guatemala's public school textbooks

The Korean folk tale “Two Good Brothers” is written in Spanish in a state textbook for elementary school students in Guatemala. Courtesy of Gyeongsangbuk-do Office of Education

The introduction of Korean folk tales and culture to Guatemalan students has been made possible through the efforts of the GBE over the last 15 years, as it signed an agreement with Guatemala in 2006 to carry out an education and information support program.

The GBE has provided 2,180 desktop computers to Guatemalan education authorities since 2006. It has also invited 251 Guatemalan teachers to Korea through an invitation training program during the same period.

In 2019, Guatemala’s elementary and middle school textbooks began to feature content about Korea, including traditional folk tales. The state textbooks are used in 85 percent of all the country’s elementary schools and 40 percent of its middle schools.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the education office offered online training to 39 Guatemalan teachers last year using a remote education platform developed by the Ministry of Education. The GBE said it is planning to provide more online training sessions for teachers there as well as send more desktop computers, laptops and beam projectors this year.

Recognizing the support, Guatemalan Ambassador to Korea Marco Tulio Chicas Sosa visited the GBE offices last week to express his gratitude. He brought textbooks containing the Korean content as gifts for the office.

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