|The 2013 Leadership Program in Washington, D.C., for North Korean University Students: A New Challenge, A New Opportunity For Personal Development|
The 2013 Leadership Program in Washington, D.C., for North Korean University Students: A New Challenge, A New Opportunity For Personal Development
By Mili Kim, Educational Training Team
Earlier this year, six North Korean survivors who are now studying at universities in South Korea participated in a challenging yet fulfilling three-week leadership program in Washington, D.C. The program, which was designed to foster leadership skills and provide a global perspective, gave the students the rare opportunity to visit various international organizations, and attend lectures and debates by experts of international development and North Korea.
The 2013 Leadership Program was jointly organized by Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights and the Korean American Sharing Movement (KASM). Established in 1997, KASM is comprised of Korean-American community leaders and professionals in the D.C. area, and is committed to providing food aid to North Korea. It has run a youth leadership camp for Koreans and ethnic Koreans living abroad since 2003.
To be selected for the Leadership Program, the North Korean students went through a rigorous application process that evaluated their character, development, social contribution, experience, talent, and English ability. Only six students were selected.
During the program, the students learned about U.S. history and culture at a number of museums and memorials, many of which resonated with the students. For example, the Korean War Memorial evoked the shared values of peace and freedom, particularly in its inscription of the Martin Luther King quote “Freedom is not Free.” And at the Holocaust Museum, the students found the mountain of Holocaust victims’ shoes deeply moving. To them, the image represents the experience of North Koreans today.
The students also visited several international organizations, U.S. government offices, and non-profit organizations such as the World Bank, U.S. Congress, and Committee on Human Rights in North Korea. Political, social, and economic experts and leaders from those offices met with the students, including Dr. Marcus Noland, an expert on the North Korean economy at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and Dr. James Person, a North Korea expert from the Woodrow Wilson Center.
From the Leadership Program the students gained not only new knowledge, but the ability to think deeply about its implications for Korean unification. They returned to Seoul with homework: How could they continue their personal and professional development so that they could contribute to unification? They agreed that they must continue the leadership training received in Washington, by improving their communication skills, strengthening their resumes, continuing their education, and participating in community service. By doing so, they know they can become leaders in the movement for unification.
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