Certain moments in life come few and far between. Standing in the heartland of Seoul on my last day in Korea, I wasn’t thinking how an internship at the Ministry of Unification (MOU) was going to revolutionize my life. Rather, I kept contemplating whether I would be able to continue the life journey that had brought me there to begin with.
I, Faizaa Fatima, hail from Dhaka, Bangladesh— a minuscule developing nation of 150 million people but a land of immense dreams nonetheless. As a child, I was told that one first needed passion in order to work towards a goal; and time and again, I have felt the truth in those words. The tale of North and South Korea had always been something I could very well relate to, especially as a Bangladeshi born to ancestors who had experienced the India-Pakistan Partition, the vestiges Bangladesh’s war for liberation in 1971 and the struggle between the Hutus and Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide.
Consequently, I was raised with an awareness of the issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula, which I eventually carried on to my college career. I started learning Korean during my sophomore year and spent part of my last summer studying Korean at Ewha University. Thence emerged my desire to work on human rights issues in the Northern counterpart, which eventually led to my internship at MOU, the reason being my belief that unification is not a national concern, but a global responsibility. Unification simply cannot happen through concerted efforts of the Korean government, but the global community needs to have a stake in it as well.
Speaking of my experience with the Ministry, sometimes, we do not necessarily have to undergo life-changing moments for an experience to indeed be memorable, and, similarly, my stint at the MOU was one of them. The week-long Unification Leaders Camp held in China taught me to adopt a historical approach to the process of unification, which I may previously have been loath to consider. The Unification Education session opened my eyes to unique perspectives that I nevertheless disagreed with, but learned to appreciate all the same. Last but not least, the mentees at Hangyeore Middle and High School completely redefined my perceptions of bravery, perseverance and steadfastness in the quest for their rights in the new homeland. Meeting contemporaries who had made some of the most difficult decisions of their lives and braved all odds for their dreams was a most humbling experience. From the desire to ensure their rights did unification eventually blossom into a personal objective.
Whether or not I theoretically championed unification as a cause was of little concern. It resonated with me that I was no longer vying for the rights of nameless, faceless entities and it mattered that we were all united in resolving the personal anecdotes and claiming for them the rights to life that they rightfully deserve. If unification were the means to achieve all of that, then so be it. While I rightfully acknowledge the economic and politico-security gains a peaceful unification would bring, it matters more that we are able to guarantee sufficient state support programs in the process unto whom the unification is geared for, and debunk the speculations of subpar defector policies as well.
As I entered the minuscule waiting room of the Central Government Complex on June 28th, with much well-placed trepidation, little did I know that I was going to learn as much from my fellow correspondents and others in the program as I did from the scheduled program itself; and for that I am truly grateful. Here forth, I pledge to do justice to the experience, passion and feelings wrought upon me thanks to the Overseas Correspondent Program, render words to the tales of unification, and bring those accounts to life in the process. Unification is as much as a personal responsibility as it is a global one; and, equipped with the agency to express my take on unification, I am looking to do my small part in disseminating a heightened sensitivity on the matter.
Paul Kelly and the Messengers might have been talking about the Indigenous Australians’ battle for land rights and reconciliation when they recorded “From Little Things Big Things Grow” in 1991. More than two decades later, the same can be reiterated for the cause of unification: most big things have small beginnings, and that is exactly why my, and your efforts towards unification can indeed make a difference.
We’re now one step closer to unification than we were yesterday.
“From Little Things Big Things Grow”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tHEGo-g3mw