“Koreans don’t have to emulate Jewish belief systems,” educational researcher Seol Dong-ju said, “but we do need to copy the way Jews teach their children.”Background here and here.
The result is dozens of private chavruta-themed academies, with busy branches in major cities throughout the country, catering to everyone from toddlers to adults. Some make use of Korean-language Talmudic texts, while others follow entirely secular curricula.
Kim Jung-wan, who directs one such academy — the Havruta Culture Association — explains that South Korea’s Jewish education quest is over 40 years old. It began in the mid-1970s, when Korean translations of Talmud-inspired stories by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, an American military chaplain stationed in Japan, first arrived in Seoul bookstores.
Tokayer’s stories were a runaway success. The Talmud, the vast Hebrew and Aramic compendium of first millennium law and lore, effectively went viral in South Korea: In the decades since, hundreds of Korean versions of the Talmud have appeared, mostly deriving from English-language translations and commentaries. These range from picture story books for children to thicker, more ponderous volumes for adults.
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