BUSAN, South Korea – On the 6th of September at 3 p.m., the new campus for Busan’s main expat school will be officially opened by the Mayor of Busan. It will be the realization of a many years of hard work by both city officials and Busan’s international community.
This school’s history originates from way back in the 1980s when Busan was quite a different place. The city’s expat community mostly consisted of sea-weary sailors in Nampo-dong, a few brave English teachers wondering what they had gotten themselves into and contractors looking forward to jetting home to their families once their latest project were finished. It was in this environment that Norwegian native, Tore Jacobsen, founded the International School of Busan in 1983. He saw that Busan had the potential to be a city where international families could live comfortably together while working abroad.
For most of its existence, the school sat perched on the top of Dalmaji Hill. It became a focal point for the international community in Korea, with students from over 30 countries sitting in their desks learning about the world. Dalmaji has a reputation as an arty neighbourhood in Busan, and the residents welcomed their new cosmopolitan visitors. The school was very much a family affair with parents volunteering to help out with school activities and many of the teaching staff bringing their children along as students.
However, as the school grew over the years, it became a victim of its own success, as it outgrew its surroundings on the hill. A temporary solution was to move the Early Learning Centre into the former train-themed restaurant beside the main school, but this also became cramped as Busan’s expat population continued to expand. It was at this stage that the Busan City Council began to explore what was needed to attract the best and brightest members of the international community to the city.
City representatives decided to build a new International School Campus near Haeundae, and when the time came to choose an organization to operate the new school, the Busan City Council immediately went for the logical choice and approached the long-established International School of Busan to see if it would be possible to work together. An agreement was made and in November 2008, work began on a brown-field site near Songjeong beach that was formally a well-known ramyeon factory.
One of the requirements for this new venture was also a new name for the school. Busan City Council requested that the word ‘Foreign’ be included in the title to differentiate the school from educational establishments that offer international programs aimed at Korean students. Thus, the International School of Busan became Busan International Foreign School. The title takes a bit of getting used to because the word foreigner has slightly different connotations these days in English than it used to, but as explained above there is a logical reason for the choice.
The school’s first classes in its new home began a few weeks ago in late August, and the students are reveling in the additional space with excellent sports facilities and modern classrooms. Busan International Foreign School will be opening its doors to the community on September 6th with an opening ceremony hosted by the Mayor of Busan, Hur Nam Sik, and Stephen Palmer, the school’s long-serving principal.
According to Mr. Palmer, Busan International Foreign School is finally what it should be. “The school has been offering a world-class education program for many years and now we have the world-class campus that the program deserves.”
There is little doubt that with the opening of the new campus, we are seeing the start of another successful chapter for Busan’s oldest expat school.