When I was in Australia last month, I came across a fascinating article about Talmud study in Korea. While this may be old news to some, it is nonetheless worth sharing for those who haven’t seen it:
Reports of the Talmud being a national classic in South Korea have been floating around for several years, but it’s now official: The country’s ambassador to Israel, Ma Young-Sam, told the “Culture Today” TV show that Talmud study is now a mandatory part of the country’s school curriculum. In addition, it is said, almost every home in South Korea boasts a Korean version of the Talmud, and mothers commonly teach it to their children, who call it the “Light of Knowledge.” Why? “We were very curious about the high academic achievements of the Jews,” Young-Sam explained, according to a Ynet report. “Jews have a high percentage of Nobel laureates in all fields – literature, science and economics. This is a remarkable achievement. We tried to understand: What is the secret of the Jewish people? How are they, more than other people, able to reach those impressive accomplishments? Why are Jews so intelligent? The conclusion we arrived at is that one of your secrets is that you study the Talmud… We believe that if we teach our children Talmud, they will also become geniuses. This is what stands behind the rationale of introducing Talmud study to our school curriculum.”
The Israel National News article continues here, the original Ynet story is here, and there’s more here. Some bloggers have pointed out that what the stories call the Talmud is actually a watered-down collection of Talmud stories. Nevertheless, it remains a fascinating report and one more indication that Israel could cultivate much goodwill in Asia, a region in which its diplomats seem strangely reticent.