The Dubious Presence of Creativity in Korean Children

One thing that’s had me stumped since I arrived is how much of a creative lack there is in Korea. Not only is there a lack or arts, alternative culture (Koreans are all about the communal mentality, which is great, but one of the many sacrifices this creates is subculture), and even imaginative thinking a lot of the time.

I don’t mean this in a bad way, because “imaginative” is replaced by “efficient” and “pragmatic”, which aren’t at all bad things.

As a creature of alternatives and a borderline hippie in terms of freedom, imagination, and creativity, however, I am always concerned when my students are confused by the opportunities I give them for creativity.

Me, if I had half a choice. Except the being a man part.

I first noticed it during my winter camps, but it came up again Friday morning.

We gave my 3rd and 4th graders listening and speaking tests, and worksheets to complete while they waited. Inevitably, most of them finished the worksheets well in advance of the end of testing. As such, I took it upon myself to find an alternate distraction.

My solution was paper: a half sheet of regular printing paper that they could draw on. I was rather proud of myself for the simple brilliance this offered in both keeping them occupied/entertained and keeping them silent.

When I gave it to them, they cringed. I knew it was because they expected more work, but I happily informed them that they could draw instead.

They looked at me like I’d painted myself green for no apparent reason and was asking them to screw fish into light bulb sockets.

“Teacher, what?” they asked, hands and shoulders in an exaggerated shrug.

“Draw,” I said. “Anything you want.” I also mimed it exaggerated it.

Geurim?” they asked. Picture?

“Yes!” I confirmed. I even drew tiny pictures of rabbits, butterflies, and various sauropods to give them the idea and then left them to it.

By the end of my four classes, ten kids drew the Korean flag – if they drew anything at all.

And I continue my quest to boost/make appear their creativity.

7 thoughts on “The Dubious Presence of Creativity in Korean Children

  1. Sports school? Does that include golf, etc? But mostly I’m troubled by the implications of a mindset — maybe I’m greatly overreaching on this — that seemingly did not help in the recent terrible ferry accident.


    1. Yeah…that was mentioned in conjunction with the accident. Here’s hoping this gen will grow up with that looming hindsight in mind…I’ll do what I can in the classroom 🙂


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