This is a report of EuroClio’s study visit to Seoul, Republic of Korea, July 2016. The study visit was hosted by the Northeast Asian History Foundation.

What was the purpose of the visit?

This was an exploratory visit, intended to;

  • Follow up meetings with the NAHF at EuroClio’s 2016 Belfast Conference, and a recent event in the Hague to build on initial conversations about possibilities for working together to support the History education community and provide development opportunities for teachers
  • Facilitate meetings between NAHF staff and EuroClio delegates
  • Share regional perspectives and facilitate discussion of best practice
  • Provide some example practical inputs of EuroClio style training for teachers in Seoul, and use this to facilitate discussion
  • Brief EuroClio further about North-east Asian history

The event was held at the kind invitation of, and generously fully funded by, the NAHF in Seoul.

Who attended?

45 Korean teachers and 90 high school students attended the ‘active sessions’ alongside selected NAHF staff

Senior members of the NAHF led a series of welcome and exploratory meetings with members of the EuroClio delegation, including NAHF’s President, Mr Hosup Kim; Mr Hyun-Ju Lee, their Secretary-General, Dr Joseph Jeong-il Lee The Director of External Affairs and Public Relations and the Ambassador at large for Geographical Naming Dr Euy-sang Yoo. The EuroClio delegation and trainer group was formed of three EuroClio ambassadors with extensive experience as writers/trainers/project members and a member of the EuroClio Board with high level experience of working in Asia. Frank van der Akker, Bojana Dujkovic–Blagojevic, Julia Kushnereva, Dean Smart and Aysel Gojayeva.

What did the programme consist of?

In-school teaching: Three two hour long active learning workshops for ninety Korean high school students aged 16-17 on:

  • Multi-perspectivity (Teaching the same facts in different political systems, or ‘Gavrilo Princip: Terrorist of National Hero?’);
  • Using Sources (Intercultural contacts of Soviet Youth);
  • Engaging Storytelling and Role Play (Active learning to explore medieval values as seen in warfare of the period).

A plenary session with teachers involving question and answer style interaction and some discussion.

A teachers’ symposium: A three hour series of presentations and discussions for Korean History teachers.

This included introducing EuroClio as an organisation, its core values and approaches and challenges. We spoke about being an association of associations, the professional role of the secretariat in supporting the EuroClio family and our work for the History education community. We explored the challenges and importance of designing and implementing transnational projects, trust building and cooperation work across many regions in Europe and beyond. Examples from the previous projects were used to help contextualise things for the teachers and there was a long interchange of ideas and questions and answers shared between those present.

The element of the presentations related to active teaching were based on reflecting on the role enquiry based and innovative history education has in supporting the skills of critical thinking and multi-perspectivity; this included discussing EuroClio’s work in working regionally through shared cultural heritage and using active and engaging approaches to teaching and learning. Examples were cited from the EuroClio project “Sharing History, Cultural Dialogues” as well as experiences of working on history education in post-conflict countries in the western Balkans.

Delegates experienced an excellent cultural and historical programme showcasing some of the rich elements of Korea’s culture, its long history of innovation, and its often troubled experience with neighbouring empires.  The purpose of this programme, alongside the Korean tradition of being excellent and generous hosts, was to present examples of how European history teaching might pick up examples of North-east Asian history in teaching about regional and world history, and to demonstrate what teachers visiting the Republic of Korea might experience when developing their knowledge of the country and the region. It is hoped that further collaboration, training, and teacher exchange may be possible if circumstances allow.

Interaction with NAHF staff

The EuroClio delegation were welcomed and supported at a high level, meeting with senior staff in their Board room, being taken to lunch and dinner throughout the official part of the event, and introduced to Korean cuisine and culture.