Simone Corporation and its CEO, Kenny Park, announced a gift of $5 million to Concordia Language Villages this week to support the first phase of construction of a culturally authentic Korean Language Village.
Concordia Language Villages offers 15 world languages and this will be the eighth Language Village with a permanent site. It is the first Asian language village to be built on an 875-acre tract of land on Turtle River Lake near Bemidji, Minn. The buildings for this new site will draw on both contemporary and traditional Korean architectural design elements.
“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 gift also represents the single largest donation in support of K-16 Korean language education in North America.”
Simone Corporation makes luxury handbags for famous brands such as Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, and Coach and is the largest designer and producer of women’s luxury handbags in the world. Park noted that the United States accounts for 80 percent of the company’s $1 billion annual sales and this gift is an opportunity for the company to acknowledge its strong relationship with America.
“I believe that one of the best gifts for young people is providing access and motivation for them to learn and experience global cultures,” Park says. “I consider the Korean Language Village to be a perfect model of how best to create global citizens.”
Park learned about the Concordia Language Villages 10 years ago when the founding dean of the Korean Language Village, Dr. Ross King, did an interview for a radio station in Seoul. Park heard the interview and King’s message of Koreans investing in others around the world who are learning their language.
“Kenny Park asked his assistant to track down this person on the radio,” Schulze explains, “and that is how the relationship began, fostering 10 years of scholarship and program development grants from the Simone Corporation to Sup sogŭi Hosu, the Korean Language Village.”
In honor of the 20th anniversary summer of Korean language programming at the Villages, Park and the Simone Corporation are making this investment. 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 United States, and the Korean Language Village is part of the same trend,” says King, Korean Language Village founding dean 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 important for U.S. national security and economic prosperity.
“This is a crucial investment in strengthening the K-16 pipeline of Korean language learners who will contribute to enhanced U.S.-Korea relations in the future,” Schulze says.