“I would like to teach Korean studies in a French University.” – Hong Sora about her dream.
Hong has taught Korean in colleges, she is currently teaching Korean language courses at the University of Paris 8 and INALCO (National Institute of Eastern Languages and Culture)
Hong Sora was born in Geojae Island located in the south of Busan in 1983. She spent her childhood there and then she moved to Mokpo, a rival city of her hometown. Her parents both come from these rival cities. The rivalry was political and more important at that time than it is today. Her father is from Haenam, a neighboring village in Mokpo while her mother is from Geojedo. Since childhood, she has been confronted with a mix of cultures as her parents both had cultural differences such as accents, foods and local traditions.
Her dream was at first to be a professional make-up artist and she wanted to study fashion. However her parents strongly disagreed and made her change her ways. They believed that this course would not guarantee her a future. The majority of Korean society considers studying art as a hobby not a profession. The art school was known to be for students with bad grades and that it would not provide a stable future.
She studied in a renowned high school of foreign languages. In Korea there is a hierarchy of schools, to be in a reputed high school is considered to be the right road for success. Her aim in choosing this high school was a PhD degree. She studied French and started to appreciate French literature “I loved French” she said. Her dream changed when Hong met her French teacher. She wanted to at first teach Korean but then she switched to Korean studies in France.
Then she continued her studies of French at the Hankuk University of Foreign languages and she moved to Seoul. The renowned university was considered as the most qualified for the study of foreign languages. Once again, Hong’s parents disapproved of her path, for they wanted her to teach English because of it’s worldwide use unlike French.
At the University of Yonsei, one of the top three universities in Korea, she started her Ph.D degree. She studied Korean studies, especially contemporary Korea. Her thesis is about the reception of the French cinema in Korea during colonial times. She took a break from her thesis and came in France.
She is now under a Ph.D. of Korean contemporary history in EHESS (Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales).
She had been studying French since 1998. She arrived in France 5 years later, in 2003 for the first time
At Lyon, the first place where she stayed for a year, she was surprised by the different origins of people. She had believed that a French person had to be blonde with blue eyes, she said “I was too influenced by Fairy Tales”. At first it was difficult for her to differentiate people’s origins, for her, they were all French. However, now she is able to tell the differences through physical features and accents. She would not qualify it as a culture shock as she grew up in a mixture of cultures thanks to her parents and also because of her multiple moves in different cities for her education.
When asked about culture differences between South Korea and France, she replied that France changed from “a country of dreams” to a country where she could decide to live in. It became a place where she thought she would not be judged for her appearance. In Korea, women clothes have limited sizes, but in France it is not the case which was for her in a way “freedom.”
Would you go back to Korea permanently?
“No I prefer my life here, I do not see myself working or living in Korea in the future.”