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Multicultural school director Dr. Roy Alok Kumar

"When the flower blossoms, the bee will come. If the bees don't come, the plants won't grow fruit. I hope Korea continues to grow more open-minded toward foreigners."

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△BMIS Director Roy Alok Kumar 

In January 2011, Alok Kumar Roy, a professor at Busan University of Foreign Studies, said these words after receiving the 100,000th naturalization certificate in 63 years since the establishment of the Republic of Korea. Kumar came to Korea to pursue his International Relations Doctorate of Philosophy at Seoul National University in 1980. Then in 2015, the professor was appointed Secretary-general of the Busan Foundation for International Cooperation (BFIC), which was a groundbreaking event because he was the first expat ever to hold that position. Dynamic Busan sat down with Dr. Kumar to discuss his life and hopes for Busan.

Q. Was it difficult to become a naturalized citizen?

A. I remember Indian Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tago-re's words that cultures have jeal-ousy; don't expect to get the key to the master-room without confession of unconditional love. Despite quickly getting used to Korean culture and society, I thought it is better to wait a bit patiently to get recognition from Korean peers. But, I liked Korea even though there were few foreigners then. Above all, Korean culture has grown and evolved quite amazin-gly, which made me decide to get naturalized. More foreigners have come, strengthening multicultural pl-uralism. People from different origins are creatively enriching Korea and are getting culturally enriched too.

Q. Tell us about your experience as the Secretary-general of the BFIC. 

A. My top priority at BFIC was to engage in connecting geography with people, ideas and institutional arran-gements. Busan's know-how has been a good platform for functional exchange with sister and friendly cities. I encouraged internship and exchange programs to enable foreign exposure to Busan youth to enhance their career planning and employment opportunities. We helped international students participate in inter-nships at local businesses. 

I also tried to expand my youthful interest in Eurasia and beyond for meaningful and futuristic international cooperation. Busan should be open and inviting to all visitors, be they foreigners, multicultural citizens or tourists. Their stay in Busan must be a pleasant experience. So, during my tenure, BFIC had professional consultants who advised visitors on comm-unication, legal matters, finance and more. 

Q. Tell us about Busan Multicultural International School (BMIS). 

A. BMIS educates multicultural students from primary to high school who could not adjust well to regular Korean schooling. They are good students but have difficulties learning at Korean schools due to language and other barriers. Since the students come from diverse backgrounds, the school deploys a diverse teaching approach matching individual require-ments. Even students from the same culture can massively differ in terms of their knowledge base, absorptive power and skill acquisition. 

So, we have introduced an open class system where students are tested for their ability and are assigned classes without the pressure of age or peer group. Even classrooms are named differently and aren't based on traditional age or grade-based class systems. Here the focus is on respec-ting each other's identities and lear-ning to grow by embracing diversity.

My goal is to encourage students who don't necessarily have the best standardized grades. My emphasis is to enhance the problem-solving ability of each student without providing quick-fix solutions. I want to foster a sense of ingenuity, individualism and pride in diversity to develop as decent human beings dedicated to working toward the betterment of society.

Q. What do you think about Busan hosting the World Expo?

A. Compared to when I first came to Busan, the city has developed significantly. It's already a world-class tourist destination. It is also an open harbor city geographically and has a history of accepting not only visitors but refugees as well. The city's history of accommodating diverse people, cultures and ideas is gl-obally comparable, making it an ideal host city for the expo and beyond.

Q. What are your future plans?

A. I want to help bridge the gap between foreigners and Koreans. I will spend my energy developing platforms where people from all walks of life can freely exchange ideas.