Sonia, interning at NKSC this summer, worked with the Unification Education program raising students’ awareness about North Korea. NKSC goes to middle and high schools around South Korea taking North Korean defectors to share their story and answer to students’ questions. These are the insights of her work.
What did you expect before taking part of the Unification Education program?
Not so much of expectations, but I did have a lot of questions regarding each workshop’s effectiveness, students’ reaction to the information provided, and of course how I would get to all the different schools in Korea, where we had Unification Education scheduled.
What was your role?
I was assigned with various tasks to assist the execution of workshops in the beginning, such as documenting them with pictures and videos to use in reports, and setting up the workshop location. Later on, however, I was able to learn more about the logistics of Unification Education as well, by leading the sessions to help make students more interactive, and contacting the lecturers and the hosting teachers beforehand.
Did you ever meet North Korean defectors before?
What were the reactions of the students?
Mostly positive. We incorporate quiz shows and Q&A sessions during which the students can ask whatever they want to the North Korean defector lecturers. They usually end up being curious about everything.
What feedback did you get from the students?
That the opportunity to meet and talk to defectors, while learning about the day-to-day life in North Korea is rare and valuable in giving them some food for thought. Sometimes though, high school students may say that the information from the lecture isn’t unknown and that they wish the workshop was more politically informative/detailed/difficult.
What questions do the students ask?
It depends on where we go. Middle school students usually ask about the overall culture in North Korea and the differences between North and South (i.e. are there porn videos in North Korea? – and the answer is yes, by the way).
At high schools, we tend to get questions that are more complicated, about current events in North Korea, its position at the international level, repercussion of unification in the future, etc. But actually, we still always get asked about porn videos in North Korea. It’s a staple. The detailed accounts of the defectors’ journey are also frequently asked topics. Answers to that question differ as the defectors have all taken different routes, so it easily attracts the students’ interest.
Were the speakers comfortable talking to the young students?
Yes, they get trained and first participate as sub-speaker, who answers questions during Q&A session, rather than as the main lecturer.
What surprised you the most?
That regardless of the content that is already set and hence always the same, each workshop differs on so many levels depending on who the speaker is.
What is your opinion about the Unification Education activity of NKSC?
It’s important. And I find it unique that the NKSC helps South Koreans get to know North Korean youths more at a personal level albeit preexisting notions, while providing North Korean defectors a chance to share what they have to say, and make some money.