A Decades-Long Korean Connection

By John Derry

When 100 international students arrive on a small college campus, it can present an interesting challenge as well as a wonderful opportunity. That’s what happens each fall at Hope International University (HIU) when we welcome study abroad students from Dongseo University (DSU), one of the top 10 universities in Korea.

About 100 students from Dongseo University in Korea arrive at Hope International University in Fullerton, California, each fall to attend the English as a Second Language program and experience living in the United States.

The students are accompanied by two visiting professors and study at HIU for two semesters. More than 500 students apply, and 100 are selected by DSU to attend the English as a Second Language program and experience living in the United States. The students are fully engaged in the many activities of campus life, attend chapel, participate in spiritual formation groups, and are required to attend a local church each weekend.

Much of what these Korean students know about American culture has been gleaned from television or movies, and they soon recognize how different that is from reality. Korean students often live as guests in the homes of faculty, staff, or area church members, giving them an opportunity to observe American lifestyle and family traditions.

Programs are designed to facilitate interaction with the campus and local community as part of HIU’s focus on preparing graduates to live, work, and serve in a multicultural global society. The university food service adds a few Korean items to the menu, but the primary goal of this program is to create an environment in which all students grow in their appreciation of cultural differences.

Enrolling international students at Christian colleges and universities has been a common practice for decades, and there are many successful church and mission leaders around the world who were educated at one of our schools. Lincoln Christian University, Johnson University, and HIU are actively recruiting in China, which sends more students to the United States than any other country. With students from more than 20 countries, HIU is using educational resources to equip leaders who will impact the world for Christ in a variety of settings. For example, Chinese graduates who completed master’s degrees in education or business are now serving in positions of prominent influence in major cities in their home country.

The special emphasis on Korean students is prompted, in part, by HIU’s location, Southern California’s Orange County. The Los Angeles area has the largest Korean-
American population in the country, and Fullerton, California, ranks No. 3 in this ethnic population among American cities. Sixteen Korean-American megachurches are located in this region. HIU offers this nation’s only master of arts in church music taught in the Korean language.


Deep Roots

The relationship with Dongseo University has roots that go back to the early 1960s, when Sung Man Chang and his wife, Dong Soon Park, came to the United States from Korea to study for the ministry and enrolled at Cincinnati Christian Seminary. While here, they visited more than 50 churches in 20 states, and returned home to establish the Korean Church of Christ Mission, which later became Christian Education for the Far East. The couple’s travels took them through Southern California and included a brief stay at Pacific Christian College (which became Hope International University in 1997), where they were welcomed with generous hospitality. The relationships established during this time left a lasting impression, and they continue to acknowledge the role many American churches and missionaries had in their ministry and its future success.

On a recent visit to Busan, Korea, HIU representatives were given a tour of Dongseo’s extensive state-of-the-art campus. The top floor of the main library is dedicated to the history of the school, and one exhibit behind a glass wall was a collection of journals and newsletters containing accounts of Dr. Chang’s educational mission and church work. The exhibit included a number of Horizons and Christian Standard magazines from 40-plus years ago containing articles that detail their mission efforts.

Chang established the Dongseo Educational Foundation with a vision of emphasizing Christian higher education and providing the people of Korea with the means to develop their country after the Korean War. In 1965 the Dongseo Christian Vocation School began with 19 students who met in temporary classrooms. From the beginning, Christian values and principles have been a part of the educational experience. All students and staff members attend weekly chapel services for Bible study and prayer, and each school year begins with a special service to acknowledge God’s blessings upon the school and to reinforce the importance of embracing a Christian worldview. The educational philosophy is based on a commitment to harmony between academic study, student life, and service to God and others.

The word dongseo means “east meets west,” and building global relationships is a key part of the original vision. DSU has developed collaborative programs with 97 universities in 27 countries, and recently completed construction of a new campus in China. In 2006, HIU participated in the World University Presidents’ Forum, sponsored by DSU, at which representatives signed the Declaration on a Global Education Network.


Phenomenal Growth

The growth of Dongseo University and the Educational Foundation has been phenomenal; it is now the largest university in the world with an historical affiliation with the Restoration Movement. Enrollment has increased to more than 40,000 students in the three institutions that make up the foundation: Kyoungnam College of Information Technology, Dongseo University, and Busan Digital University.

The main campus of 24,000 students is constructed on the side of a mountain that overlooks the city of Busan. The expansive buildings are comparable to major public or private universities in the United States and include the latest technology. Recently HIU representatives were guests at the dedication of a film school that is located in a new 14-story building adjacent to a 1,500-seat theater. The University Chapel is located in the center of campus; Busan Christian Church meets there weekly.

Chang’s career began as a minister, and he continued to preach regularly at the church on campus until his retirement in 2005. Because of his commitment to the value of Christian higher education, he established the foundation, but he has also been active in government; he was elected to the Korean National Assembly, serving as Speaker, and sponsored programs that met the needs of poor and low-income citizens. He is the author of 30 books and numerous articles, and is a respected Christian leader in the city of Busan and throughout Korea, having established several nonprofit organizations and institutes. After Chang’s retirement as president of the university, his wife served as president for 12 years; today, their son Dr. Jekuk Chang holds that position.


Mutually Beneficial

The relationship between Hope International University and Dongseo University is mutually beneficial. HIU students may study abroad through an exchange program, and those who live on the undergraduate campus in Fullerton, California, have the opportunity to interact with people from a very different cultural background. HIU hosts seminars sponsored by DSU for Korean-
American business leaders and for schoolteachers from Korea.

Back in the 1960s, when the young couple from Korea was taking classes at Cincinnati Bible Seminary and traveling to churches in the United States, it is unlikely anyone could have envisioned the impact their lives would have around the world. The growing number of international students on our college and university campuses today holds the same potential for the future. These men and women have a commitment to share the good news of Jesus Christ and will become visionary leaders in their respective countries.


John Derry has served as president of Hope International University, Fullerton, California, for more than 10 years.

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