South Korea: In a wave-like manner a new movement was set in motion in South Korea by the end of the 1990s. In 1998 the German Embassy in South Korea held ceremonies to strengthen the German-Korean relations. One of the outcomes was the idea of founding the first kindergartens and schools on South Korean soil. Since then, Waldorf Education is dynamically spreading in South Korea influencing Korean teachers, parents and through national conferences and meetings, even the public school education. In thirteen years, more than 100 kindergartens and six schools have been established (five near the capital Seoul and one at the southern tip of Korea). Below we would like to introduce the Waldorf inspired initiatives.
With five children from five families and one teacher it all began very small at the Cheonggye Free Waldorf School. When its founders began to recognize numerous problems in the public school system they began building up a school in the city of Gwacheon in 2002, which would influence the rigid society through its Waldorf educational approach. Waldorf education was something that suited their needs. The school grew rapidly and in 2011 the school moved to Uiwang an adjacent city south of Seoul with currently 250 students in grades 1 to 11.
Every day, one line is being imprinted in the memory of the sixteen students from Yangpyeong Steiner School, established three years ago: “School is a place where our dreams come true.” This is an important moment for the students, even if it seems a bit cheesy. But it is a song that offers new energy, especially since many of the students belong to the so-called minorities in Korea. With this school one of the few places in South Korea has been created, where children with and without special needs are able to grow up together. For the future, the school is planning to create Camphill Communities where older students can continue to live in.
Another school near Seoul, the Purunsup Waldorf School is located on a hill with a wonderful view of a vast river and the surrounding green forests (this is called “purunsup” in Korean). In 2002, parents from the region looked for a new educational approach for their children. As a result the Purunsup Waldorf School was founded the following year in a rented warehouse, in which parents built classrooms with much enthusiasm. In 2009 the school built its own new school building in Teochon. Today, with 162 students in grades 1 to11 and fifteen kindergarten children, students and parents continue to work on their goal to consistently introduce Waldorf education throughout the school. Parents not only support the educational work, but some of them have even settled in a village community called Purunsup Maeul, situated close to the school.
Two other schools have emerged in the vicinity of Seoul in recent years: the Gurmsan School in the city of Gwang Myeong, Gyeonggi, with twenty students and the Dongrim Free School with already 57 children.
There is only Waldorf school in the South of the country: the Apple Tree School in Busan offers Waldorf education since 2008 and serves an important purpose: In the past year, several state teachers have been trained in Waldorf pedagogy at this facility.
With the urgent need to cooperate with each other, especially during the first steps, the Waldorf teachers in South Korea began to hold regular meetings in 2009. And since 2010 there is an official teacher-training course, which is conducted twice a year. The representatives of the schools meet on a monthly basis to share news from the various schools with each other. About 100 teachers are now hoping that together with the schools and children the new waves of Waldorf inspired ideas and activities in South Korea – and perhaps someday in North Korea – will never stop.