What Does Unification Mean to the Average Korean College Student?

Members from our overseas team with North Korean defectors and South Korean college studentsCHRISTINE OH

From August 4th-7th, our team (eight students from Wellesley College and one from Boston University) embarked on a four-day trip to visit the DMZ and drive along the 38th parallel line dividing North and South Korea. Our complete group was made up of student reporters from the Ministry of Unification, some student leaders from Kyung Won University, and a number of North Korean defector college students.  During the many hours that we spent on the bus traveling from site to site along the border, we were able to share with each other about our backgrounds, our cultures, and most importantly discuss our opinions about North Korea and unification.

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Hanawon and Hana Center, the North Korean Defectors’ Resettlement Centers

HAESUN CHO

Hana Center in Gunja, Ansan-Si, Gyonggi-Do, South Korea

Hanawon, established on July 8th, 1999, is the government resettlement center for North Korean defectors. It is located in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, which is about an hour south from Seoul. Hanawon is the place in which North Korean defectors would go and can get support and help when they first arrived in South Korea.

Hanawon offers the 3-month resettlement program for North Korean defectors to help them to adapt to a new environment (South Korea) with different culture, economic system, politics, etc. During the 3-month program, it provides basic education on culture and history, training, psychotherapeutic counseling, and so on. After the 3-month program at Hanawon, North Korean defectors are put on family register, get a house with a government subsidy, and may get job offers. When North Korean defectors scatter to all different regions of South Korea, they can still get help and support from the government resettlement center, called Hana Center.

There are 22 Hana Centers in Korea- Seoul (4), Inch’on (2), Daegu (1), Taejon (1), Kwangju (2), Kyonggi-do (4), Kangwon-do (2), Chungchong-Namdo (2), Kyongsang-Bukto (2), Kyongsang-Namdo (1), Cholla-Namdo (1)

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Freedom? Depends where you’re standing.

LYDIA KIM
Part I: “Holding freedom in your hands”

We know from history that one person can build a community, influence society and  even change the world.  Whatʼs more, is that we can just as easily be challenged by one womanʼs life story.  This womanʼs life story suggests an alternate reality, one that  challenges the very way we understand and accept freedom.

Ms. Pak Soohyun* is one of four children in her fatherʼs second marriage.  Her father  was a South Korean man displaced and stranded in North Korea by the Korean War.   Unable to return to the South and unable to return to his family, her father began a new  life in North Korea.  Though born and raised in North Korea, Soohyun and her siblings were ostracized for being ʻSouth Koreanʼ.  Their success in North Korean society had  been pre-determined by their status as descendants of a South Korean man.   Regardless of her intelligence, talent or high achieving academic performance, Soohyun was able to neither receive a proper education nor obtain employment in the  government.  Their family lived under strict surveillance by the North Korean regime.

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Benjamin Button Style


DAISY CHANG

Yesterday, I returned from a month long trip in Korea. I ate a chicken’s foot, avoided using the traditional Korean toilet (imagine a horizontal urinal built into the ground), went clam digging, survived the most humid summer in my life, and had my first beer. For a 21 year old college student in South Korea, all of this is the norm, a typical day. For a foreigner like myself, this even approaches “Weird/interesting Travel Experiences.” But there was one detail about my month that made it out of the ordinary—I experienced it all with North Korean defectors.

 

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Introductions: Grace Kwon

Name: Grace Haewon Kwon

Age: 21

Occupation: Student @ Boston University

Likes: Starbucks, anything with mint, polaroids, pop rocks, bobbleheads

Dislikes: SHINEE, raisins, pimples, splinters

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Introductions: Lydia

Name: Lydia Kim

Age: 23

Occupation: Advertising

Likes: nice weather, dining in good company, dark chocolate covered sunflower seeds

Dislikes: animals bigger than me

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Introductions: Christine Lee

Name: Christine Lee

Age: 20

Occupation: Student @ Wellesley College (currently studying abroad at Yonsei University)

Likes: Jamba Juice, white peaches, SHINee, dance parties, cafes

Dislikes: constipation, technological failure, SNSD’s bubble flip-flops, warm orange juice, mosquitoes
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Introductions: Christine Oh

Name: Christine Oh

Age: 19

Occupation: Student @ Wellesley College

Likes: Arts, chicken feet, goat cheese

Dislikes: paper clips, ghosts

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Introductions: Daisy

Name: Daisy Chang

Age: 19

Occupation: Student @ Wellelsey College

Likes: Watermelon, Hi-Tech pens, Nutella

Dislikes: Papercuts, Math


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Introductions: Haesun

Name: Haesun Cho

Age: 22

Occupation: Student @ Wellesley College

Likes: psychology, nickname “Chipmunk”

Dislikes: mold, reptiles

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Introductions: Janice

Name: Janice Kim

Age: 22

Occupation: Student @ Wellesley College

Likes: Inceptiondoenjang jjigae, French

Dislikes: butterflies, yellow pencils

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Introductions: Gi Yoon

Name: Gi Yoon Kim (the G is pronounced as a J)

Age: 21

Occupation: Student @ Wellesley College

Likes: My sister & brother, Rice, Kimchi, Spicy Fish Stew

Dislikes: Dry weather, loneliness

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Introductions: Grace Kim

Name: Grace Kim

Age: 20

Occupation: Student @ Wellesley College

Likes: Asparagus; Banana Milk in the triangle carton from S. Korea

Dislikes: clusters of small dots (not candy); wide-ruled notebooks

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