|Leadership Camp in Washington D.C. for North Korean Students|
Leadership Camp in Washington D.C. for North Korean Students
In July 2014, eight university students from North Korea who resettled in South Korea participated in the second Washington D.C. Leadership Camp, co-hosted by Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR) and the Korean American Sharing Moment (KASM).
The students were selected for the 20-day program through a rigorous application. Those selected participated in four orientation sessions providing an introduction to various topics, including world economics, international relations, and NGOs.
Once in Washington, the students embarked on a packed schedule of visiting historic sites, attending lectures, and speaking to experts at various think tanks and international organizations like the World Bank. Below are some of the highlights from the trip.
The students celebrated Independence Day in the United States at the Lincoln Memorial. The crowd’s excitement and patriotic spirit inspired the students to waive the South Korean flag on South Korea’s upcoming National Liberation Day.
After watching documentaries about the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square and the Civil Rights movement in the U.S., the students shared their hopes that one day there would be a democratic movement in North Korea too, and that they could be future leaders of that movement and Korean unification.
The Woodrow Wilson Center was the most memorable place for many of the students. They met with Dr. James Person, the Senior Program Associate of the North Korean International Documentation Project. He has visited countries with diplomatic relationships with North Korea to collect documents about the DPRK. The Wilson Center uses these documents to study North Korean history and predict the future of North Korea. The amount of the resources that the center has acquired about North Korea, and Dr. Person’s passion, amazed and inspired the students.
The students participated in a competition about North and South Korean integration and post-unification at the Sejong Society. The theme was “Unification Scenario,” and in groups with other participants, the students discussed ways to achieve successful integration of North and South Korea, including through food, culture, and volunteer activities. They then creatively presented their ideas. It was a valuable moment in which different people from different backgrounds came together to discuss Korean unification.
The students visited various NGOs and think tanks, such as School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), International Monetary Fund (IMF), National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Korean American League for Civic Action (KALCA) and Open Society Foundation (OSF). From these organizations, the students learned about other countries’ views of Korean unification, particularly in the context of the democratization of Hungary and Poland and the unification of Germany and how the experiences of those countries could be applied to the Korean peninsula.
At So Others Might Eat (SOME), a NGO that helps the poor and homeless in the local community, the students volunteered for the morning food service by preparing and serving breakfast to the homeless. From this experience the students discovered how rewarding volunteer work can be.
Korean American Community Foundation (KACF) invited the students to its Public Education Forum, titled “North Korean Millennials: Exploring Identity and Place.” Three students participated as panelists and shared insights on their lives in the two Koreas. Over 100 guests came to listen to their stories.
Through the Washington Leadership Camp, the students met people from different backgrounds, expanded their knowledge of the world, and widened their perspectives on global issues. The students now want to help bring change by helping next year’s Washington Leadership Camp and volunteering at organizations like NKHR that help North Korean defector youth. They will also continue their development as leaders by meeting monthly and participating in various academic activities such as book discussions.
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