Having looked at various articles after the death of Kim Jong-Il, I started to reflect upon the Korean friends who identified with North Korea in Japan and the few North Korean people that I knew personally. Of course, their opinions could not be anymore diverse because of the different backgrounds they had come from or the different perspectives that they held. Also, the relationship that my Korean friends in Japan had to North Korea is very different from the students who had actually been born in North Korea and escaped while they were still so young.
While I researched the Korean minority in Japan last summer before my internship with the Ministry of Unification, I had the opportunity to interview a few people who had visited North Korea while they were high school students. Until North Korean education schools in Japan had started to request more government support from the Japanese government, the classrooms had featured pictures of the two Kim leaders as a regulation declared by North Korean administration who had in the past received visits from teachers who would report on the progress of the children’s education. Therefore, I had asked my interviewees about their thoughts on Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il.
Last month I wrote about my experiences from the first part of the MOU summer internship. But I haven’t told you about the best part (personally at least) yet! Today, I’m going to let you in on the second part of the internship: volunteering. If you’re interested in North Korea and you like people, you’re going to love this.
Imagine an internship where your interests are a priority. Now add being treated with respect. And then add on top of that field trips every week to some of the most interesting places in South Korea. And as a bonus, go ahead and add the opportunity to eat some of the best food in Seoul with some of the most important people within the Ministry of Unification. Sound too good to be true? Usually, it would be. But, believe it or not, all of this, and so much more, is what the MOU summer internship was like for me. Hopefully I have your attention by now, so let me give you some more details. Continue reading →
My mentee wished me a happy belated birthday this morning. I was surprised. I was convinced he had forgotten me after I tried sending him letters and emails. He was a funny kid. The first time I met him was when all mentors were paired with their mentees; he said something to me in Korean and then suddenly left. I did not understand what he said other than that he was leaving and I didn’t know if or when he was coming back, so I chased him down the corridor calling after him. I clarified the matter then, but I could tell it would be an interesting two weeks. Continue reading →
Before my two-week stay at Hangyeorae High School for the Ministry of Unification 2011 summer internship, I had been concerned with measurements toward assimilation. However, I found that my short stay at Hangyeore transformed my understanding of the assimilation process and changed the opinions I had of assimilation. Continue reading →
A little over a year ago I had been studying in Japan and had decided to start learning Korean and Korean history when I returned for another academic year in America. At that time I had often talked about getting involved in North Korean issues because I was close to the Korean community in Japan and had heard about North Korean children who continue to suffer from the famines of the previous decades and from the uninterrupted lack of food. I had studied with a few students from South Korea during that time and I was surprised that I had more interest in human rights issues in North Korea. Because I had grown up in Los Angeles, I was very accustomed to the large Korean-American community in my neighborhood, and they had given me the impression of a very strong ethnic identity that to me would imply, if not a connection, a concern for the state of human rights in North Korea. After inquiring into the differences between the students that I had encountered in Japan and the Korean-American community I knew in America, it seems that South Koreans are more concerned with getting by – their children have to go to school, they have to pay for their daily expenses – unification would suggest an increase in taxes and economic burdens. So the issue of human rights in North Korea does not receive so much attention in everyday life and when it does it is often the same story.