Today, I visited with my friend at Promise Academy. Here in Korea, there are after school schools everywhere for the kids to learn English, and one of the major chains of these kinds of schools is Promise Academy. In Korea, even the English speakers use the Korean word for these kinds of schools because we all know what it is when we use this word, hogwan. Today, I will show you Promise Academy, and you will learn what a hogwon is.
The Promise Hogwon I visited is located in Gangseo-Gu. If you decide you want to visit there, I will begin by explaining to you how to get there from Gangseo-gu Office. Every area of Seoul has a government office, and ours is Gangseo-gu Office. If you are in front of Gangseo-gu Office, go the direction away from Hwagok Subway station until you get to the big four way stop. You will recognize it because it is a very complicated place with roads looping around instead of letting you actually just turn right or left. Go through the intersection, and then take a loop on the right that will end up actually having you turn left at this intersection. Go straight on that road until you get to Balsan Subway station, then turn left. There are no loops at this intersection. Go straight from there until you get to the Mr. Pizza restaurant. Turn right at Mr. Pizza. Go past Mr. Pizza and take the next left. You will be on a really small road now, but with lots of buildings. On that small road, there is a parking garage right away on the left. Go down into the parking garage. You are in the parking garage of Promise Academy.
When you get out of your car, get in the elevator and go up to the sixth floor. Promise Academy has the whole sixth floor of that building. When you get out of the elevator, you will see the hogwon, Promise Academy, right in front of you. As you go through the glass door, you will see a long desk with people sitting behind it ready to greet you.
As I went in today, they greeted me, and then got a surprise. I said, “Choi Joseph,” and then went directly to Joseph’s office. They were surprised, but I have been here before, and have known Joseph so well for so long that he is like family, so I just showed myself in. He was one of my students when I taught at a university in America, and I met him at church soon after I got in Korea. Joseph was my neighbor and was always raiding my fridge. A Korean girl stayed at my house for 2 years, and Joseph ended up marrying her, and when their first child was born, Joseph said he was my grand-baby. Joseph was sitting in his office as I entered the hogwon.
This hogwan has eight classrooms. However, the classes were in session, so I didn’t interrupt them to get pictures for you guys. It also has a special computer room where the students go to do online lessons. Joseph is the head of this school, so in his office, there is a computer set up that is connected to cameras in the classrooms so he can watch everything at the same time and make sure everything is going smooth. He says he doesn’t record what they are doing, but he does know what is going on.
This school teaches English on all levels. Their students are elementary school and middle school students. The students go there after school to study English. Even though the highest age is middle school, their English level is much higher than the English taught in Korean middle schools. Several of the middle school students are doing high school English lessons. The hogwan gives the TOEIC test, the English test all young Koreans have to take if they want to get a good job. If you have a good TOEIC score, it goes a long way at helping you get one of the better jobs in Korea. Some still can’t get a good score even when they are at the university, but at this hogwan, they are taking this test in middle school and doing a good job. This school is connected to Yonsei University, one of Korea’s Ivy League universities.
The students are not only bright, but friendly. I couldn’t go into the classrooms because the teachers were busy teaching, and I didn’t want to interrupt the classes. However, one of the doors was open, and I took a picture of some students sitting at their desks working. There were students talking to the people working at the front desk, and they were curious about me. Joseph told them to ask me two questions in English. Mostly, they were wondering who I was and why I was there. They were surprised to find out I was Joseph’s teacher from America. I told them Joseph was a funny student because he was, and they liked that. As Joseph and I walked outside a group of students gathered around the front door to tell my bye.
I have another friend who runs another Promise Hogwon. His name is Joo Pil Park. I met him the first year I came to Korea at church. I have never seen the school he runs, but when Joseph and Joo Pil were just teachers and not running these schools, I visited the Promise hogwan where they were teaching together. Both of these guys went to the university in America, and their English is like the English of an American. Joo Pil commissioned me to write a book for their schools once, and the book is used in their schools in Thailand. They are such a popular chain that they are not just in Korea.
Joseph took me outside to show me the sign on the outside of the building. We had to walk down the street to see it and for me to get a good picture because the sign is up on the 6th floor on the top of the building. After that, we said bye, and I went to my car and came home.