|Kim Eun-suk, left, poses for a photo with her daughter Ko Eun-seok, at Ewha Woman's University campus in Seoul, March 20. /Courtesy of Ewha Woman's University|
By Bahk Eun-ji
Ko Eun-seok, 25, a recent Ehwa Woman's University graduate, has started on the path to becoming a special education teacher, following in the footsteps of her mother, Kim Eun-suk, 55.
When Kim was first told her daughter had passed her elementary teacher certification examination for special education with the highest score, she said she couldn't have been prouder.
"My mom was especially proud of me because she didn't think I would work to become a special education teacher when I first entered Ewha Woman's University in 2015," Ko said. "At first I wanted to become a civil servant or a school teacher. I never thought about teaching students with special needs."
Kim graduated from the Special Education Department at Ewha Woman's University in 1988. After completing her master's and doctorate degrees at the school, she worked as a teacher for 12 years, starting at Seoul National School for the Blind and later moving to Yonsei University Rehabilitation School. Kim went on to serve as a senior education research official at the Ministry of Education and has been serving as president of the National Institute of Special Education (NISE) since 2017.
Kim said her experience in the United States in 1997 led her to change her career from teaching to research.
"Through a training program at the NISE, I was able to experience the advanced facilities, educational system and local special educational institutions in the U.S., and I thought that I could help to raise the level of education for disabled students in Korea to the same level as that of the U.S.," Kim said.
Ko said when she was younger, she didn't want to live like her mother.
"For as long as I can remember, my mother was always busy studying and researching until midnight, and I was like 'Oh, I will never be like my mom, ever,' but at some point in my life, I realized I too was very interested in special education," Ko said.
However, Kim was initially opposed to her daughter's idea of becoming a special teacher because she was fully aware of how difficult it is.
"But at the same time, I felt like it was a compliment from my daughter and that she appreciated my life. It was such a special moment for me," Kim said.
Kim has always told her daughter that the value of special education, which she learned through classes at Ewha, was that teachers should not limit disabled students to the category of disability they have.
"I want to become a teacher who helps students in need to grow and have the same opportunities as other members of society," Ko said.