The city of Incheon is working to raise the level of English language proficiency among its residents to levels seen in Hong Kong and Singapore.
And recently the city and its Office of Education launched what they call the ''Incheon Free English Zone'' program.
For more on this, I'm now joined by Jeon Hyounju, who is an advisor to the Mayor of Incheon on English education.
Welcome to the studio.
AHN CHAKHEE, ANCHOR: Let's begin with why Incheon is setting up this Free English Zone in the first place.
JEON HYOUNJU, THE MAYOR OF INCHEON ON ENGLISH EDUCATION: Incheon Free Economic Zone in Incheon Metropolitan City is growing rapidly towards the core of international business in Northeast Asia. In order for Incheon City to attract foreign investors it is necessary to create an environment where English, the global language can be used everywhere and this is the reason why the government has declared Incheon as the English-immersion district. This event will make all the citizens including public officers and students realize the importance of English language and at the same time motivate them to study English in order to collect advanced information from all over the world and perform successfully in international business.
AHN CHAKHEE, ANCHOR: There're already several such ''English villages'' in Korea including the ones in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province. Some are skeptical as to how effective this sort of English education program is. How would you say, Incheon's ''Free English Zone'' is different from the others?
JEON HYOUNJU, THE MAYOR OF INCHEON ON ENGLISH EDUCATION: English Free Zone is different from English towns in Gyeonggi Province which was established for the purpose of English language education only. The name 'Incheon Free English Zone' was modeled after 'Incheon Free Economic Zone' and this shows the strong intention to create Incheon City as a place where English can be used freely everywhere. Of course, there is an English village in Incheon City, too. There is a negative public opinion in running such villages in other provinces due to the high cost. However, the English village in Incheon city is run very effectively with low cost while the city government appointing an institution and sponsoring only the students' education cost. It is very hard to conclude the effectiveness in language education in a year but still everyone would agree that it is necessary to have an independent institution for the English language program.
AHN CHAKHEE, ANCHOR: Now about hiring the people to run the place. You obviously need employees who have native or very good English language skills. How are you managing that aspect of the project?
JEON HYOUNJU, THE MAYOR OF INCHEON ON ENGLISH EDUCATION: Incheon city has recorded the highest percentage of 40 percent to place native English speakers in public schools. And this lead the Incheon City to win the first place from the evaluation in English language education by Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development. Of course, there are many difficulties in receiving native English speakers. It is hard to recruit qualified teachers but it is even harder to build up more know-how in methods of co-teaching by opening up seminars case-studies.
AHN CHAKHEE, ANCHOR: And finally, what are Incheon's longer-term plans regarding this project?
JEON HYOUNJU, THE MAYOR OF INCHEON ON ENGLISH EDUCATION: Incheon city government will expand English speaking area by building Talk House, English Plaza, English Street, and English Town in order to create English speaking environment. Also, special educational program which will help the public officers to take care of international job will be developed. And by the year 2010, there will be native English speakers in all the schools in Incheon area. Korean English teachers will have lots of opportunities to study English in both Korea and overseas so that they can teach English in English in classrooms. Finally, we'll continue the systematic English education for all the citizens including the parents which has already started since last year. Thank you very much.
AHN CHAKHEE, ANCHOR: So it's English for everyone. Well, Ms. Jeon Hyounju, thank you for coming in and sharing that with us.