Since 2003 the faculty of the Korean department at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center has given students an opportunity to compete for the prestige of being the “top dog” in Korean speaking skills.
During this year’s ninth annual Korean speech contest in the tin barn on 24 June, 12 students from the Korean program were chosen to represent their department by writing and reading a speech entirely in Korean.
This speech contest, which was conducted on the anniversary of the Korean War, was in remembrance of the conflict that freed millions of people and solidified the partnership between the United States and South Korea.
The contest opened with guest speaker, Vice Korean Consul General Mr. Sung Wook Hong. During his opening remarks, Hong expressed his amazement and gratitude to DLIFLC. “Despite my life-long Korean background, I find Korean to be a difficult language. DLI has my sincere gratitude for providing excellent education to these students,” Hong said.
Hong also explained the importance of events like the Korean speech contest. “Culture is a force that can bring people together and can create a beautiful bridge between Korea and the U.S.” he said.
According to Asian School II Dean, Dr. Clive Roberts, this is the most impressive speech contest that he has had the privilege of being a part of. “I’m blown away by the success of this event. Each year I think it can’t get any better but it does,” Roberts explained.
The speeches were chosen by the students and varied from topics as simple as how to make Korean food more popular in the U.S. to a history lesson on the lead-up and cause of the Korean War. Other speeches held emotional value by telling the story of the harrowing journey that North Korean defectors must take through China, Vietnam to eventually end up in South Korea.
The speech that won the Commandant’s award this year was Airman 1st Class Jalessa Mikuchonis. Her speech was a funny story that explained the magic of Kimchi as a “wonder drug” and “cure-all.”
According to Mikuchonis, the contest pushed the limits of her language skills. “I put a lot of work into this, but it was rewarding. I spent a total of seven hours preparing myself for this contest. The competition was tough,” she explained. The idea of the Magic of Kimchi speech came from a funny story her husband told her about his travels in Korea.
After the contest, Hong announced to a packed audience in the Tin Barn that he was impressed. “It is extremely surprising to see how far you have come in a short time while studying one of the most difficult languages in the world. I feel your pain because I have an idea how much the teachers are putting you through,” said Hong.
Story and Photos
Brian Lamar, Strategic Communications