Today’s wonderful guest post on Korean culture is written my friend and fellow teacher and adoptive mom Gina, who shares her adventures in nature, the arts, literature, and meaningful play with her toddler son Grady on her blog connectingfamily&seoul.
As an adoptive parent, I feel that one of my most important jobs is to help my son develop a deep connection and love for his native country, and to learn about Korean culture. Even though we are living in the States, Korea is an important part of our family culture. I often wish that we had more time to explore the land and its people when we made our journey to meet out son. The week that we spent there went by so quickly, leaving little time to discover the customs and sights of this beautiful country. As my son grows, I hope to find different resources that will help paint a picture of where he got his start in life.
Since he is still so young, one of the easiest ways to help him begin to get a basic understanding of Korean culture and customs is through stories.
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While we were in Korea, I did have a bit of time to meander through the Insadong Market to find “treasures” that we could bring back for our little guy. This market is located in Jongno-gu district of Seoul and has a maze of alleyways showcasing antiques, artwork, and souvenirs for shoppers to purchase. I found several gifts that we will present to him as he grows up, for birthdays or special occasions, including a couple of books.
Korean Folktales to Teach Korean Culture
One selection that I made was of a book called Long Long Time Ago, illustrated by Dong-sung Kim. This book contains 20 folktales that reflects the history and traditions of South Korea. One of my favorite tales is entitled The Green Frog. It tells the story of a young frog who would never do what his mother asked. Every time she would petition him for a favor, he would do the opposite of what she wished. All her life she worried about this little frog because it seemed as if he could not follow through with even the smallest request.
As she got older, she grew very sick and decided to make one last appeal about where she was to be buried. This time, however, she thought she would outsmart him by asking the opposite of what she wished. Unfortunately, the little frog felt so much remorse about the way he treated his mother that he decided to honor her final request. So, in the end, the mother still did not get what her heart desired.
Another version of this folktale has been recreated in the beautifully illustrated story The Green Frog: A Korean Folktale Retold by Yumi Heo. We purchased this book months after we returned home and it brings the lesson to life in a humorous light expanding upon an explanation as to why frogs croak when it rains. Both books help children understand the importance of listening to their parents and showing respect. There is a great emphasis in Korean culture to hold elders in high regards in public, as well as in the home.
I love finding stories that touch upon important character traits that children should become accustomed to as they mature. By reading these folktales and modeling respectful actions in our everyday life, it not only helps our son learn more about his culture, but also teaches him to become a well mannered boy. Well, at least I hope it will.
I am thrilled to be able to share another simple way that my family incorporates Korean culture into our home with the readers of KidWorldCitizen. If you have ideas or activities that you use to teach the kiddos how to be global citizens, I would love for you to share them with us!