Kenny Park, CEO of Seoul-based luxury handbag manufacturer the Simone Corporation, has donated $5 million to Concordia Language Villages in Moorhead, Minnesota. The donation will support the first phase of construction of a culturally authentic Korean Language Village.
This gift represents the single largest donation in support of K–16 Korean language education in North America. The Korean Language Village, Sup sogŭi Hosu (translated as “Lake in the Woods”), will be the eighth Language Village. It will also be the first Asian Language Village, to be built on an 875-acre tract of land on Turtle River Lake near Bemidji, MN. The buildings will draw on contemporary and traditional Korean architectural design elements.
Simone Corporation is the largest designer and producer of women’s luxury handbags in the world. Chairman and CEO Kenny Park noted that the U.S. accounts for 80% of the company’s $1 billion annual sales. This gift is an opportunity for him and the company to acknowledge their strong relationship with America.
Park says, “I believe that one of the best gifts for young people is providing access and motivation for them to learn and experience global cultures. And I consider the Korean Language Village to be a perfect model of how best to create global citizens.”
The village celebrates its 20th summer of immersion programming in 2018. Since 1999, more than 1,600 young people from all 50 states have attended one-, two-, or four-week sessions at the Korean Language Village.
“Korean has had the fastest-growing enrollments of any world language program over the last five years in the U.S., and the Korean Language Village is part of the same trend,” says Dr. Ross King. King is founding dean of the Korean Language Village and professor of Korean language and literature at the University of British Columbia.
He attributes this growth in part to the “Korean wave” in popular culture, but the Korean language is also increasingly critical for U.S. national security and economic prosperity.
“This donation by Kenny Park and the Simone Corporation represents a major milestone in the 57-year history of Concordia Language Villages, as it is our largest single gift to date,” says Christine Schulze, executive director. “This is a critical investment in strengthening the K–16 pipeline of Korean language learners who will contribute to enhanced U.S.–Korea relations in the future.”