What started as a fourteen-hour flight has become the adventure we all anticipated. As a part of our first day, the group struggled with jet lag as we tried to stay up as late as possible to get used to the new time zone. As one of our first group bonding activities, we explored Hongdae, a part of Seoul near our home for these two months, and found great food thanks to Jea.
Continuing into our next day, the DESK members continued to explore Seoul before heading to Chiguchon School, where we were able to talk to the Principal of the school, as well as sit in on two classes, including 1st and 4th grades. Getting to know the school where we are going to spend most of our first month was very meaningful, and we were all excited to start our time at the school, if not also a little nervous.
On Tuesday, we were given the opportunity to go to the Center for Re-Unification Education near the north of Seoul. While we were there, we were able to speak to professors who were proficient in the topic of reunification and what it would mean for Korea d it was achieved. They also made sure to emphasis certain themes that were integral to their idea of unification, which were peace and democracy among others. At the end of the day we watched a movie called Boy Meets Girl where a North Korean girl is able to do an exchange program in South Korea where she meets a boy and they discover that though they are from different contexts, they have commonalities that eventually bring them together and allow them to understand each other.
Wednesday contained many more classes on North and South Korea, as well as their current relations and past difficulties. On Wednesday, we were also fortunate enough to converse with North Korean refugees and ask them on their experience and opinions on the current context. It was very enlightening and impactful for all that were involved.
While continuing to be a part of this education, Thursday was filled with field trips to various places in Seoul that concern themselves with reunification of North and South Korea. In the morning, we departed from the Unification Center to visit the DMZ (demilitarize zone). DMZ is an area set by the ceasefire agreement between North and South Korea that is located between the two countries. Recently, the peace talks between Kim Jung Eun and Moon Jae-In were held in this area, and we were all excited to finally take a visit to this historic place.
Inside DMZ, we were able to go to Odusan observatory, Inter-Korea transit office, and Dorasan station. Odusan observatory was one of the closest viewpoint from the North Korean propaganda village and under a clear sky, we were fortunate enough to sight some North Korean actors and actresses in the village working on the fields. Inter-Korea transit office and Dorasan station served as a vital point of economic exchange between the two countries until 2016, but as former president Park’s liberal administration vehemently protested against Kim’s nuclear missile program, it was shut down. Knowing that North and South Korea are in the peaceful mood, we felt hopeful about the reactivation of these facilities and prospective reunification.
In the evening, Professor Kim bought us a group meal at a modern Korean restaurant called “OU”. After a satisfying meal, we had a reflection session to discuss about our education plans. Without any prior knowledge about student’s fluency in English, it was difficult to plan out the educational curriculums. Nevertheless, we were able to come up with a detailed plan that included specific games that we would be able to play with the kids.
On the weekend, we had free time to take a tour around the city, and thanks to our group leader, we were able to go around some of the major sites in Seoul like Noryangin fish market, Central City, Gangnam, and other touristy places around the city (the group leader wrote this entance himself!). For our last meal of the week, we went to all-you-can-eat barbecue place near Hongdae to replenish our energy for the long week ahead. We can’t wait for the next week ahead of us and are excited to continue our DukeEngage experience.