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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Daegu Deja Vu: Daegu Universities, Then and Now

My most memorable moment on any college campus occurred in Daegu years ago. As a young instructor of English my Korean students were constantly asking me questions about my background: my age, my hometown, which university I graduated from. One day a student asked, “Professor, what was your major subject area?” Without thinking much about it, I responded that my major was American history. The student seemed genuinely perplexed. “Professor, American history is only two-hundred years old. How can that be a major? Korean history, is 5,000 years old,” he continued, “That is a major.”
For me, that conversation stands frozen in time. I was confronted by the realization that my native country was indeed, relatively speaking, only in its infancy compared to say, Korea’s long history. I was humbled by my own naiveté and unintended arrogance.
Then, Keimyung Christian College (now Keimyung University) students in the spring of 1974. Note the Indiana University sweatshirt
The Korean university classroom of that time (the 1970’s) featured rubberized blackboards that made legible writing awkward. Chalk was often a rare commodity. Typically, classrooms were poorly lit and ineffectively heated. In spite of all these challenges, students had an intense interest in learning English.
Co-ed students on the campus of Keimyung Christian College in 1974
Fast-forward several decades. I hope I am a wiser and more thoughtful teacher today. Certainly, Daegu’s universities and colleges have evolved. Most campuses compete on an international stage. Students hail from around the world. Classrooms boast state-of-the-art equipment, heating and air-conditioning. In Keimyung and Yeungnam Universities, Daegu has two of the most prestigious private universities outside Seoul. Kyungbook National University is one of the most highly ranked national universities in Korea. It holds first place in and around the city in many fields.
Several of Daegu’s universities today. Clockwise from top-left: Yeungnam University,Kyungbook National University, Keimyung University, and Daegu Catholic University
Daegu’s large university hospitals make the city the medical hub of southeastern Korea. Kyungbook National University Hospital and Dongsan Hospital, which is partnered with Keimyung University, were founded in 1907 and 1899, respectively. Yeungnam University Medical Center has the largest number of beds in the area. These institutions, along with Daegu Catholic Medical Center, ensure that Daegu has the second largest medical capacity outside of Seoul.
Keimyung Christian College, Administration Building, in 1974
Keimyung University, In-town Campus, Today
And, oh yes, another relatively new sight which can be witnessed on the many university campuses that dot today’s Daegu—couples unabashedly holding hands. While it was common to see women and even men holding hands with members of the same sex in the 70’s, hand-holding between people of the opposite sex was simply not acceptable then.
All eyes however, are on the future. Yeungam University proudly envisions itself primed with global competence and leaping ahead from being a renowned local private university, to becoming one of the world’s most prestigious international universities. Don’t doubt a country with 5,000 years of history and an insatiable appetite for achievement.
Keimyung Christian College student (center) speaking with high school students in 1975. Note girls’ uniforms of that era

1 comment:

  1. seems like u must've been hard on research about our city. I didn't know as to some part of this even though I was born and raised in here! Thx for letting me know and for your interest of our city, Steve!!:)