When my family used to live in Seoul, I could easily hear about North Korea from my parents, grandparents and teachers. Just like any other Korean elementary school students of my age, I eventually gained some basic knowledge of North Korea and Korean history. Yet I did not notice anything too inconvenient about living in a divided country, nor did I feel any insecurity about the two Koreas being in the state of war. Maybe I was too young to be concerned about unification issues. Ironically, what made me interested in North Korean problems is has been my experience living outside of Korea since fifth grade.
I was raised mostly in New Zealand and have spent my most recent years in the US as a college student. While living outside of Korea – particularly after I decided to major in economics and international relations in college – I naturally started to wonder what non-Koreans thought about Korea. I was often surprised by the amount of attention that non-Korean societies and media pay to North Korea, especially regarding nuclear security. Considering that almost every South Korean citizen is at least aware of such issues, it seemed to me that the South Korean public was relatively indifferent to North Korean politics and unification issues. However, these problems on the Korean peninsula are global-scale security concerns and essential human rights issues that need to be solved sooner or later. Therefore, I wanted more people around me to be aware and concerned about the two Koreas. This is what motivated me to participate in the Overseas Correspondent Summer Program.
The most memorable activity of the Program for me was the volunteering at Hangyeore Middle and High School. While teaching English and mentoring young North Korean defectors, we had an invaluable opportunity to become close friends with them. As I got to know more about the students, I heard about their tragic memories associated with North Korea, and how much risk they had to take to enter South Korea. Also, after having witnessed how hard the students try to adapt to South Korean society, I could truly understand what it means for them to live a new life in South Korea.
Because of the Overseas Correspondent Summer Program, I now have many stories to tell and memories to keep. I believe that these stories and memories will always inspire me to learn more about North Korean issues and think about how I can contribute to resolving them. Moreover, I hope that my activities as an Overseas Correspondent will be able to inspire more people to be interested in the unification of the two Koreas.