Field Education Programs in the Korean Context

The Development of an Integrated Field Education Program in the Korean Context

Principal Investigators: Rev. Dr. Hee An Choi and Rev. Samuel M. Johnson

The Rev. Dr. Hee An Choi
The Rev. Dr. Choi Hee An, Clinical Associate Professor of Practical Theology, Director of the Anna Howard Shaw Center

The goal of this proposal is to provide the needed research to establish a Field Education program that re-evaluates and integrates both Korean and Euro-American theological, pedagogical, and methodological systems. Whereas the current model is dominantly based upon the Euro-American system, the new testing model would incorporate both Korean and Korean-American understanding of Christianity, theological pedagogy, and educational methodology so that Korean and Korean -American students, pastors, and churches would achieve academic and practical excellence in their field education experience. pb300290As we have significant large numbers of Korean/Korean American students, we will first focus upon Korean culture but we also hope that the School of Theology as a global seminary will take these initial learnings and develop other multicultural pedagogies and theologies applicable for various disciplines in the curriculum.

 Rev. Sam Johnson
Rev. Sam Johnson

While the problem we are researching is focused upon the Korean and Korean-American context, it is an issue for all cultures beyond the European-American. We have chosen Korean and Korean-American both because the culture has such a rich pedagogical and theological tradition and also because it represents our largest number of students. Our first step is to identify the pedagogical, theological, cultural and ecclesiological issues. Then, we will develop a process to establish a new field education program that is sensitive to the issues discovered. It is assumed that there will be conflicts between the existing pedagogical/theological/culture foundation and the identified issues. Ultimately, we plan that once having established this pedagogical foundation we will look at how to train Integration of Theology faculty leaders, theological supervisors, and intern committees in the field education program on how to use this new pedagogy. We will be especially concerned for those churches and supervisors that are primarily Western European-American who have Korean students.

Recently a new Korean field education theological supervisor wrote the following paragraph in a case study concerning a problem she is having with her Korean intern:

In assessing the barrier for better and more open communication between us and providing constructive input in supervision, I feel that there are some cultural issues that need to be mentioned.  First of all, the educational model of supervision is not familiar to many Asians who grew up in a collective society.  The Korean education system was established on the basis of collectivism, not individualism. Thus, many Koreans are not accustomed with the individual-based and the mutual teaching mode in supervision.  Secondly, in comparison to Western cultures, Koreans are encouraged to be oriented to non-verbal communication.  For some people, it is difficult to speak out his/her feelings or emotions before older people and those who are in authoritative position.  There are some emotional burdens in discussing her/his issues and struggles. I think these cultural issues are common even among Korean immigrants who live in the U.S. and also among the Korean students studying in the U. S.

Her insights reveal the value of this kind of research can have. At this point, we are not concerned with whether her statement is accurate, but that it is the kind of insight that only a person of the indigenous culture can have with authenticity. Also, only a person of that same culture can critique it with equal authenticity. A person of another culture could question it, but could not disagree with the same authenticity.

The theological dimensions of this project are many.  This proposal assumes that the Incarnation of God’s Word happens equally in all cultures and also through all cultures. The Word of God is more fully heard when its articulation is received by different cultures and not silenced even when that Word sounds dissonant and even contradictory. The empowerment of the Korean system of theology, pedagogy, and methodology in Field Education is key not only for the Korean community but for the larger church community in understanding God’s Word.

It is also believed that since the early church’s debate between Paul and Peter and the church leaders over the inclusion of the Gentiles, that for the church to be open to all people of all cultures and both genders that the church and, in this case, its seminaries must be open to all of these people. This openness is more than a receiving of those people into an already existing system but is a changing of that system in light of the insights, customs, and traditions of those people. The principle has been part of the church tradition throughout its history even though it has not always been honored. The church has been more truly the body of Christ when it has been honored-being neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, etc.

Finally, we believe that for the reign of God to come we must be a global community, receiving and honoring all cultures and people. In theological education this means we must be open to and learn from all theological understandings, pedagogies, and methodologies. The reign of God is not about uniformity but about a dynamic diversity where truth is always greater than any particularity and can only be perceived through the receiving of the other.