MONTREAL, OCTOBER 25, 2010 - While he does not have an official designation from Stephen Harper, one could easily call Min Sik Kim an ambassador.
At the English Montreal School Board, Kim has a crucial job. He’s the face of English Montreal to hundreds of South Korean students and their parents, all interested in an international education.
Filled with rich culture, traditions and history, Montreal’s reputation is world renowned, however, that does not make Kim’s job any easier.
“There is a lot of misinformation about Montreal,” said Kim. “A lot of people think that during the winter, everyone is inside all day and night. I have to explain to them that it’s not like that whatsoever and that there are plenty of options.”
Kim also noted that language, for multiple reasons is a critical issue. While in South Korea, there is an understanding of the prominence of the French language in Quebec, there is a lack of knowledge regarding the English community and how children truly grow up in a bilingual society.
“A lot of Koreans do not know that there are English schools in Quebec and that’s where I step in,” he said. “I make sure they know about the English Montreal School Board, the city of Montreal and give them a taste of what their children could be experiencing if they come over.”
With two trips each year, Kim works alongside both the governments of Canada and the Republic of Korea as well as various educational representatives to ensure that the EMSB has a prominent presence at various education fairs and expositions.
Trucking along brochures, DVDs and a wealth of other information, Kim tirelessly speaks to each interested family, ensuring that they get a perfect picture of Montreal and what the city has to offer.
“Montreal is a bilingual city, but also a global city. I tell the parents and students that they will be learning more than one language,” added Kim. “The English and French is a major selling point. The parents realize that upon their child’s return, they will be able to speak three languages instead of one.”
A bilingual education certainly strengthens Kim’s pitch for Montreal, however, standing just a few tables away are representatives from both Toronto and Vancouver, providing steep competition.
“There is a vibrant Asian community in both Toronto and Vancouver,” said Kim. “While many people know Montreal, some have connections to one of those two cities. They both also have a direct flight to and from Seoul, which sometimes makes a huge difference for some families.”
Yet, for South Korean families, overcoming the hefty price tag of $25,000 to $30,000 per student, per year, is also a major issue. While the price includes tuition, housing and food, only select families can afford it, especially since the average child stays for two years.
Even with a high cost, Kim’s success and passion is evident. He recruits on average 90 students annually to join the EMSB family. His efforts account for roughly 60% of the EMSB’s international population, with the rest of the students coming from China, Brazil, Vietnam and Germany.
“I really believe that Montreal is the best city in North America and that Korean people are starting to believe that too,” added Kim. “Canada is one of the best countries in the world to learn English and Montreal, one of the best cities, and that is very important for them.”