Reaching for Unification from the Heart
Reaching for Unification from the Heart
  • Ewha Voice
  • 승인 2005.09.01 00:00
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▲ During Geumgangsan Tong-il travel, participants learned that mental unification should come first, before the actual unification of the two Koreas. [Photo provided by Hwang Su-jin]

   During the summer vacation, many students spend their time tutoring high school or middle school students, taking part-time jobs, studying foreign languages, or exercising. However, there are some students who spend their time working for the unification of the two Koreas. The Tong-il Camp (Unification Camp) and Geumgangsan Tong-il Travel (Travel to Geumgangsan: Wishes for Unification) are two events which offer students an opportunity to think about and discuss unification, and experience North Korean culture, during their time off school.
   The first Tong-il Camp was held in 2003 at Handong Global University, hosted by the Student Union, whose official name is the "Unification Preparation Student Union." From then, it has been held every summer and winter. This year's Tong-il camp, held from June 23 to 25, was the fifth, and about 200 students from different universities participated in the camp. There were various events during the camp, most related to unification and the current situation of North and South Korea. For example, lectures about how to prepare for unification, understanding North Korea and unification, and life in North Korea were given by Jeong Se-yeong, the former minister of the Ministry of Unification, and Kim Seong-min, the chairman of the Association of the Defectors of North Korea.
   Cheon Oh-bet (Politic & Diplomacy, 4), a participant in the Tong-il Camp, said that it was a very impressive experience because she could meet students who defected from North Korea. She heard vivid stories about the hard life in North Korea and the defectors' experiences adapting to South Korean society. Participants discussed both Koreas' situations and what a desirable future for them would be. They also relaxed on the beach and tried North Korean foods. "The most important lesson that I learned during the Tong-il Camp," Cheon says, "was that real unification comes from 'mental unification.' I always thought of unification just from an academic point of view. However, I learned that just thinking about unification in front of a desk doesn't change anything. Understanding and respecting each other's culture and talking face-to-face is the most important thing in becoming a unified nation."
   Geumgangsan Tong-il Travel was held from August 13 to 15 and was hosted by the Young Korea Academy and Travel 21, a national student union for traveling. The travel program celebrated Korea's 60th Liberation Day on August 15 at Geumgangsan in North Korea.
   "I was really fascinated by Geumgangsan's beautiful view. It was far beyond my imagination. Also, although it was a brief encounter, meeting and talking with North Koreans was the most exciting and memorable event during the trip. We introduced our names to each other and shook hands. When I said that I would come again when Korea is unified, one North Korean woman guide replied, 'Let's do our best to make Korea a unified nation.' That was really emotional," said Ki Yo-un (Sociology, 4).
   During their trip, participants were able to watch various performances by other participants on themes related to advancing unification. However, they not only enjoyed themselves, but also took the issues of unification and North Korea into deep consideration. A joint declaration made through exchange of faxes with North Korean university students stressed that the two Koreas should achieve unification on their own, without other countries?help or interference. Ki said that, even though she couldn't meet North Korean students directly, she felt close to them, and she thinks that unification will not be not so far away if both sides keep in touch.
   Choi Jin-hye (Seoul National Univ., 4), a participant, commented, "Nowadays, the relationship between North and South is getting better. I think that we, university students are also helping to make the relationship better by doing student activities like this. As nongovernmental exchanges like this increase, I think unification of the two countries will be made soon."

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