Missions from Korea 2014: missionary children.
The information presented here is based on empirical research of two sorts: first, a quantitative survey I designed and processed with the help of staff at the Korea Research Institute for Mission (KRIM) in late December 2012, which has been updated with additional data gathered at the end of December 2013; second, qualitative research involving field-based interviews carried out in nine countries in which 176 members of the Korean mission community took part--missionaries (70), MKs (76), and MK educators (30)--during the period of October 2012 through April 2013. (1)
The results of the questionnaire survey administered in late December 2013 show that 20,085 Korean missionaries were working with 166 mission agencies in 171 countries. These missionaries had a total of 17,675 children, with the percentage of children at each educational level as follows: preschool (16.8), elementary school (22.9), middle school (13.4), high school (12.9), college or university (29.1), and employed or employable adults (4.9). For Korean missionary parents with children of primary or secondary school age, the type of schooling selected, by percentage, was as follows: local schools (35.9), international schools (28.6), schools in Korea (14.6), homeschooling (9.0), MK schools (8.9), and other options, including Korean overseas schools (3.0). Field studies suggest that each option has both advantages and disadvantages.
Many MKs feel that as a result of a decision made by their parents, they had to leave Korea suddenly and without sufficient opportunity to prepare. MKs who are unhappy in the field may begin to question God's goodness. Healthy spiritual relationships with God and parents should be consolidated before MKs reach adolescence.
Linguistic challenges are a hurdle in the education of MKs, especially during the first years in a new field. When MKs return to Korea on furlough, their Korean-language abilities are routinely tested by their grandparents and church members, and all too often the children are made to feel shame for their deficiencies. Yet at the same time teachers at international schools think that many Korean MKs need to give more effort to improving their English.
The emotional and psychological challenges for MKs are also substantial. MKs who attend boarding school may miss their parents and siblings. Those who attend local schools often lack close friendships. An absence of peer bonding is particularly marked for children who are homeschooled. On all fronts, relational satisfaction seems very low, which can cause severe loneliness and depression.
MKs often struggle with their cultural identity, which is vitally related to one's sense of self and one's pattern of behavior. The quest for a singular cultural identity is increasingly challenging in our swiftly globalizing world. Identities are always in the process of becoming. MKs' multiple cultural identities surface especially on their reentry to their "home" or passport country.
Financial problems are experienced by almost all Korean missionary families. Only a small number of Korean missionaries have been able to afford education insurance or other plans that help parents prepare early for the high cost of a university education. The large majority of MKs whom we interviewed hoped eventually to earn a good salary, seeing such income as providing the opportunity to support their parents and contribute to the world. Interviews have led me to suggest that children of missionaries who have been securely supported by churches, fruitful in ministry, and respected by local Christians are more likely to see missionary service as a positive career path that they themselves might follow.
Currently, MKs may sense that they belong to neither the home culture "A" nor the host culture "B," but only to a third culture "C." When coined in the early 1950s, the term "third-culture kid" lacked its current positive connotations, which stress the child's intercultural adaptability and competence. Successful educational missionaries can help ensure that MKs belong to both the home culture "A" and the host culture "B," and thus in practice to a hybrid culture "AB." I suggest that such processes would allow us to replace the term "third-culture kid" with "hybrid-culture kid." Our understanding of the nature and mission of MK education should be updated along these lines.
Korean missionaries need to plan their children's education wisely by making informed decisions. A vague fideism among many Korean missionaries has sometimes hindered appropriate planning, effective preparation, and practical support for their children's education. Affordable best practice should guide decisions about MK education, which should be tailored to the situation of individual missionary families. Overall, despite many complicating factors, we should be confident that the complex goals of MK education can be achieved.
Missionary children need to understand and accept the realities of their lives and education and to appreciate what is available to them. An MK's spiritual heritage, cultural capital, and personal relationships are very rich and will provide him or her with opportunities later in life. Insofar as MKs internalize their identities and develop coping strategies, they develop psychological strengths and an emotional stability that will serve them well in unfamiliar situations.
A more nuanced approach will overcome the stereotypes of an idealized missionary life and will encourage Korean churches to upgrade their mission programs to take more fully into account the details of missionary life, including the realities for MKs. Because of factors often beyond their control, teachers, dorm parents/assistants, and administrators tend not to stay in this ministry for a long period of time, which inhibits the development and accumulation of expertise. Korean churches should set aside a portion of their mission giving as support for lay missionaries who work with MKs, for missionaries who do not focus on evangelism and church planting often have trouble raising support.
People who accept the lordship of God and desire the progress of his kingdom need to pay close attention to this often marginalized yet promising and often very talented group of people. God's mission is both cross-cultural and cross-generational. Korean MKs are God's covenantal people, but they are vulnerable as they stand with their parents on the front lines of the missio Dei. (2)
(1.) EunYong Cindy Kim carried out the interviews in the Philippines and Thailand. The remainder of the interviews in seven countries were carried out by Steve Moon with the assistance of Hee-Joo (Yoo) Moon and Jung Joo Lee. All are on the KRIM staff. In all but four instances the interviews were of individuals rather than of groups. The 176 interviews generated over 800 pages of field notes, which are now kept, along with recordings of the interviews, at KRIM.
Nine formal schools and two home schools in nine countries were covered by our research; two separate group interview sessions with a total of eight university students were added later. The schools covered by our research are Manila Hankuk (Korean) Academy, Manila, Philippines (principal: Segi Hong, www.mha.or.kr); Grace International School, Chiang Mai, Thailand (superintendent: Jennie Garcia, www.gisthailand.org); Black Forest Academy, Kandern, Germany (principal: Robert Shuman, www.bfacademy.com); Hanal Korean School in GDQ International Christian School, Tirana, Albania (director: Roger Pearce, www.gdqschool.org); Dakar Academy, Dakar, Senegal (director: Joseph Rosa, www.dakar-academy.org); Bourofaye Christian School, Dakar, Senegal (www.bcs-senegal.org); International Gateway Academy, Istanbul, Turkey (www.int-gateway.org); Glovill High School, Busan, Republic of Korea (principal: Kiy oung Shin, www.glovillhigh.hs.kr); Sejong Global School, Cheonan, Republic of Korea (director: EunHwa Chai, http://sejongglobalschool .org); and home schools in China and Myanmar.
(2.) This summary report is based on a fuller report that was published as an addendum to Family Accountability in Missions: Korean and Western Case Studies, ed. Jonathan J. Bonk (New Haven: OMSC Publications, 2013), 243-58. The numbers for Korean missionaries and MKs have been updated to reflect the new data set gathered in December 2013.
(3.) In 2012 the average monthly educational cost per four-person Korean missionary family was W591,082 (US$ 555), ranging from a low of W200,000 ($188) to a high of W1,000,000 ($940). See Steve Sang-Cheol Moon, "Missions from Korea 2013: Microtrends and Finance," International Bulletin of Missionary Research 37, no. 2 (April 2013): 96.
(4.) Alternative schools in Korea do not follow the pattern set out in the government's standard educational policies and curricula. They seek to overcome problems found in traditional public education by emphasizing differing educational goals and contexts. Overall, alternative schools are smaller in size, more experiential in teaching and learning, more individualized to accommodate different learning styles, and more likely to be based on a particular religious worldview than public schools.
Steve Sang-Cheol Moon, a contributing editor, is Executive Director of the Korea Research Institute for Mission (www.krim.org), Seoul, Republic of Korea. --email@example.com
Korean Missionary Children Totals as of December 2013 Missionaries 20,085 annual growth rate (percentage) 1.4 Mission agencies 166 sending/supporting 124/42 interdenominal/ denominational 150/16 Missionary children 17,675 Breakdown of MK population (percentage) by educational level preschool 16.8 elementary school 22.9 middle school 13.4 high school 12.9 college or university 29.1 employed or employable adults 4.9 by type of schooling (for primary or secondary education) local schools 35.9 international schools 28.6 schools in Korea 14.6 homeschooling 9.0 MK schools 8.9 Korean schools overseas/others 3.0 Other realities of MK education (approximate proportion/percentage) MKs' language preference in Korean 40 everyday life MKs' country preference for Korean 40 university education MKs' language preference in English 40 everyday life MKs' country preference for USA 40 university education MKs' language preference in Local 20 everyday life language/other MKs' country preference for Local 20 university education universities/other Korean MKs in international MK schools as 7.2 to 18.0 proportion of total student body MK educational cost as proportion of missionary 19.2 families' expenditures (3) MKs in MK schools considering a career in 21.7 missionary service Problems of Korean MKs (percentage) Serious adjustment problems in school 0.9 Professional counseling needs and mental health 0.6 problems Alternative schools Number of alternative schools in Korea (4) 230
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|Author:||Moon, Steve Sang-Cheol|
|Publication:||International Bulletin of Missionary Research|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2014|
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