Author Archives: vankprkorea

A Trip to Imjingak

Quick Intro + Reason for Visit

My name is Elton Chun from Hawaii. I am currently an intern at VANK during the academic year of 2016-2017. As an intern at VANK, you get to travel to many places and experience the Korean culture, especially through food. Unluckily, during my year and because of my occupied schedule, I was not able to travel that much. However, because of this inconvenience VANK gave me a full day to travel together to a place of my choice. As a future Air force officer with hopes of working on US-SK relations, I decided on visiting the Imjingak. Here is my experience:

The Arrival

We decided to meet at Munsan Station, which is the closest station to Imjingak. It took a 2 hour subway ride from where I live and an additional cab ride from Munsan Station to the DMZ. Once we arrived we ate at a Korean traditional restaurant while waiting for our scheduled bus tour ride. During this bus ride, we would stop by many places, 5-10 minute ride between each stop.

A Look at a North Korean Region through Binoculars

The first stop was the “Dorasan Observatory”; a lookout post where we were able to look at the North Korean region of Kaesong. Although far, it was really interesting to see a North Korean region in person. Using the binoculars, we were able to see one of the tallest flagpoles from North Korea and almost a couple miles away from it, the South Korean flagpole.

The Tunnel

The next stop, we visited the “Third Tunnel of Aggression” where North Koreans dug up a tunnel underground to infiltrate South Koreans but eventually failed. Going all the way down and through a 2×2 meter tunnel was very painful on my back and going back up was a workout but I wouldn’t say it was worth the trip inside the tunnel. If you are there just to experience being in a long tunnel made by North Koreans then I would give it a visit. If you are there to see artifacts or interesting things, there are none so I wouldn’t recommend giving the tunnel a visit. Taking pictures inside the tunnel was not allowed but I took pictures at the area near the tunnel.

Train Station to Pyongyang

The last stop, we arrived at Dorasan Station which is currently not in use because of current SK-NK relations. People used to travel through this station to Kaesong Industrial Region for work and to transfer materials. The only reason this train is still effective is for the tourists who want to visit the Joint Security Area. This place was very interesting because I have never wondered that people would travel through the borders using train stations.

Gifts and Souvenirs + Last Thoughts

During all the stops, I had the chance to visit some souvenir shops where I had the chance to buy some North Korean alcohol. Also, the Vank staff members presented me with a commemoration gift which I am very thankful for.

Visiting the most guarded border in the world, I felt a sense of seriousness and inconvenience. The 2 countries speak the same language and have the same history but are separated because of the war. The animosity between the two Koreas is very sad to bear and I hope the relations between the two countries can come to a better end, ultimately reunification.

From this trip, I was able to learn and experience a lot about the effects of the Korean War and the current situation between SK and NK. Although it was a sad and intense atmosphere, I had a great time experiencing this. I want to thank the VANK staff for this experience and for taking the whole day off of their work to go to the place of my choice. Thank you so much for this wonderful experience.

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International Intern – Yang Gae-La

 

%e5%9b%be%e7%89%871Yang Gae-La – China

1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself.

Hello, my name is Yang Gae-La and I am from China. It has been 5 years since I’ve been in Korea and currently I am studying at WooSong University. Since I was young, I’ve been raised differently from others. Starting at the age of 6, I grew up reading “The Nine Chinese Classics”, learning liberal arts, politics, history, economics, business management, etc. of not only China but also other foreign countries. Then, I finally decided to study abroad in Korean after learning Taekwondo for about 5 years.

I think learning a foreign language is not just learning the language itself but also learning about the history and culture of the foreign country. That is why I decided to self-study in those areas. Last year, my friend recommended me to join VANK and that led me to participate in the 11th Global Tourism and Culture Diplomat events and receive a reward. In the future, my dream is to become an analyst, but I want to use my skills for a better relationship between Korea and China.

2. How did you start interning at Vank?

At first, I thought Koreans introducing things about Korea and Chinese people introducing things about China was a given. However, after hearing Vank’s founder presentation and the activities that the young adults partake in, I changed my mind. Promoting Korea is not only a work for Koreans or democrats, but also something foreigners can do by learning about the culture and spreading the knowledge all across the world.

Especially, I don’t think Korean young adults are promoting Korea as the “#1 country”, but they are promoting Korea’s history and culture as challenging and emotional. To promote Korea myself, I studied a lot into Korea’s culture and I thought the Silla Dynasty was very interesting. Silla was the weakest of the 3 kingdoms but was still able to achieve unification between the 3 kingdoms. It is an emotional history where they made the impossible possible. Honestly, I went to visit Gwang-ju to see the area in person. Visiting a place with a history of over a thousand years made my heart race and became a very meaningful experience for myself who is promoting Korea.

3. How was your experience at VANK?

At first, I was introduced to VANK through a friend and I thought, “At a time where I should do things that would benefit me, should I work for a country where I am not from?” I had a lot of doubts. Wondering what I would do at VANK, I started to learn out of curiosity. Later, I met with the founder of VANK and became in love with the staff and the organization itself. I am not exaggerating that I fell in love at first sight and I developed an interest and love for the organization.

My duties in VANK are to find erroneous information about Korea through the Korean Culture and History Diplomat programs and to promote Korea. For VANK, I went to Thailand alone and I have also promoted Korea there. The supplemental materials that VANK provided me were useful. Additionally, I went back to China during Valentines’ Day and suggested to people to go to Korea while distributing roses. However, there was a dilemma. I also got the opportunity to use my Chinese on Chinese students and since I knew the stand point of Chinese people, I was able to communicate effectively and I received a lot of great responses.

Honestly, as a foreigner, promoting Korea was not an easy job. I am not too sure if this work is considered easy for Native Koreans, but as a person from China I thought it would be impossible. Especially, I was not adept at the language, culture, and history of Korea and I also had a personal issue. During middle school, I was diagnosed with a skin disorder so I received 4 surgeries on my face. Thereafter, my confidence fell and I eventually got caught into depression. I was not able to talk with people around. After coming to Korea and experiencing life in a foreign country, my confidence got a lot better but it was still difficult for me to promote Korea in front of people. However, overcoming this difficulty was a chance for me to improve myself so I worked with more confidence.

Honestly, I have always tried my best but I’ve never thought I would be rewarded as a Korean diplomat. Out of 300 people, being picked as top 50 was not an easy thing to do, especially for a foreigner. That is why I believe that if a person has the dedication then that person can do better than a person with a better skill set. It was a big life lesson for me. From this experience, I found out that I have no limits. It felt like I was born again.

4. What did you contribute to VANK’s goals?

I think VANK is an organization that inspires and help achieve dreams within young adults. However, seeing the negative information about VANK in the Chinese translation of Wikipedia, I was hurt to hear that a lot of people thought of VANK as an organization that was weird and had a too much pride on Korean supremacy. I corrected some information about VANK on a widely used Wikipedia-like site in China. Additionally, to change people’s opinions on VANK and their staff, I promoted VANK in a positive way through Weibo and many blogs. Furthermore, there are still many people who have negative opinions about VANK but I will respect their opinions while helping to build a better relationship between both countries.

5. During your internship, what were your goals and what did you learn? Did you achieve those goals?

It hurts to hear all these negative comments about VANK in China, so I went on 3 of the most visited online sites in China and promoted VANK and corrected information about Dokdo and the East Sea. Additionally, I decided to periodically post on Weibo and blogs about VANK. I feel like there are lots of Koreans who are experts on Japan and America, but not on China, so I set a goal to summarize information about Korea and Chinese historical figures in Chinese and Korean.

During my internship, I was able to achieve these goals. First of all, out of the 3 major sites in China, I was able to correct and upload information about VANK and the East Sea on 2 of the sites. However, I tried to correct information on Baidu and Wikipedia for 2 weeks but they did not approve of my request. It was to the point where Wikipedia told me they will blacklist my account. Secondly, I was able to promote Vank and Dokdo to netizens on Weibo and other blogs. Third, I uploaded some videos promoting Korea on online sites except one site which had problems with uploading the videos (the videos were still uploaded in parts). Lastly, I picked 4 historical figures for each China and Korea summarized about them in both languages so that people from China and Korea can learn each other’s history.

6. During your internship, what did you improve on?

I think the most difficult time for me was the Dokdo Camp. As a foreigner, it is difficult to give my opinion on topics like Dokdo so I was very worried during the camp. Haven’t nothing to do with my homeland, participating in the activities felt very awkward. On top of that, the weekend I went to Dokdo I coincidently saw a news article of my interview which they changed the title and content on their own which made me very furious. After many complaints, they took down the news article. There were information of THAAD, Korea-China relations, and territorial problems so I felt very bad that they had to take the article down. I felt very thankful to Park Gi-Tae who helped me through this situation.

Also, I’ve always did things according to a set plan but VANK taught me how to work in a different way which opened my imagination and creativity. With Korea being heavily influenced by the Confucianism culture in aspects such as age and work position, VANK was completely different.

7. Any feelings while working at VANK?

Don’t rely on others and don’t wait for the work to come to you. Instead, use your creativity to do what you have to do and do what you want to do. That is what I felt while interning at VANK. In other companies, you have to follow a certain curriculum or model but VANK is a great organization that trains young adults to be more imaginative and creative and offers them great opportunities.

8. Any advice for someone who wants to become a Korean Diplomat?

Through Vank’s activities, I wish you can overcome any personal difficulties you may have. A position in Vank is much better than a position as the president, am I right? Well, people might not agree but if you feel the confidence from VANK’s activities you may feel the pride of becoming a member. You can recover through any problems.

I feel like we aren’t enjoying life like westerners. From a young age, Korean students are pressured into intense studying and once they are in college, they have to prepare for a job. This way of life seems very mundane and there seems to be no real dreams. Just as you are continuously making an effort with VANK, you should also aim for your real dream.

9. Any advice on promoting Korea?

While learning about Korea’s History, it’s not about how successful you become or what job you got into, it’s the effort that matters the most. There are lots of difficulties that young adults face like unemployment. There are also Koreans who are ashamed of their own country because of all the current problems. However, as a foreigner, Korea seems like a dynamic country with a lot of potential. Hence, Korean young adults should have more pride in their country first.

When Koreans promote Korea, they only show the aspects that they want to or an aspect through the eyes of Koreans. Since I am a foreigner, I promote aspects from Korea’s perspective and also take China’s perspective into account. Additionally, using the vast 5,000 year history of Korea, start with a topic that the target audience would like and move from there to promoting Korea. Try to initiate the conversation with a broad subject like East Asia instead of starting with Korea. For example, while talking to people about General Yi Sun-Shin, try to talk about other historical figures from other countries during that time. To do this, it is imperative that we must be adept in other countries’ history. When I read articles that don’t have a stand with a single opinion, there were interesting things and many things to learn. Hence, I recommend reading books not only about Korea but also East Asian countries or even about countries on other continents so that you can promote Korea in a very friendly way.

10. What are your future plans?

Because of the recent THAAD deployment plans and conflicts between Korea and China in general, the relations between the two is very unstable. I want to prove to Korean young adults that Korea and China are not enemies but are friends.

I disagree with a lot of Vank’s statements on Balhae and Goguryeo’s history and China’s “Northeastern Project” opposition, etc. However I respect Vank’s position on Northeastern Peace and the unifying efforts between China, Korea, and Japan to play a bigger role in the world. That is how I became a Korean diplomat. That is why I will play a big role in promoting Korea and China when I go back to China. Furthermore, I will provide help for any situations where there are problems between the two countries that we can’t see.

11. Any last words for VANK and the staff?

Working at Vank was very difficult but it was the happiest period during my stay in Korea. While heading to Dokdo camp, I was uncomfortable and the company, students, and friends probably thought I was rude, considering relations in Korea. I want to thank the founder, Park Gi-Tae, for taking care of me and I want to apologize.

Since the beginning of my 5 year stay in Korea, I felt that my positive feelings of Korea have been diminishing over time. However, seeing everyone at VANK with friendly and open-minded personalities, I began to fall in love with Korea all over again. Not having many skills to offer, I am sorry that I couldn’t have met VANK’s expectations during the 2 months. However, if you need any help from me, I will always be willing to help.

 

Translated by: Elton Chun

 

International Intern – Troy Chong

 

1464841359196Troy Chong – USA

Please give a brief introduction of yourself.

My name is Troy Chong and I am a senior in the Korean Language Flagship program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  I was born in Hawaii and have lived in Hawaii for my whole life. This past year, I completed my capstone abroad program for Korean Flagship and also worked as an intern for VANK during that time period.

How did you start interning at VANK?

The Korean Language Flagship has a requirement of doing an internship during the 1 year abroad capstone program. Thanks to this, I was able to intern with VANK and stay with them for about a year while learning more about Korean history and culture.

What were your duties as an intern?

As an intern, my main assignments were translation work and also monitoring and updating the VANK English website. I also assisted at VANK events as a member of the VANK staff.

What was the best part of working at VANK?

There were many perks to working with VANK, but the best experiences were probably when I was able to travel to different areas in Korea with the staff. I was able to see the countryside of Korea and also partake in the different cuisines that the different Korean regions had to offer. These experiences were one of a kind and I feel that they will stick with me for the rest of my life.

What have you gained from your experience as an intern?

From this internship, I was able to learn about how Korean history has been distorted over the years and learn more about the culture. Also, I was able to see how a successful NGO operated and the kinds of tasks that they did. Finally, I feel that this internship helped me to improve my language skills and become more task focused.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

My short-term goal is to graduate with a BBA in Finance and BA in Korean Flagship by the Spring semester. My long-term goal is to use my Korean language in supplementing in the field that I plan to work in and possibly spread the knowledge about the correct information of Korea, if anyone were to state wrong, distorted facts.

Are there any last words you would like to say to VANK?

I just wanted to express my gratitude and appreciation towards the entire VANK staff for taking care of me over the year. Even though there were some unfortunate events that prevented me from coming out in the beginning of the term, the staff still welcomed me with open arms and was very considerate to the situation I was in. I will never forget the time I spent at VANK and wish them well in their future endeavors.

 

2016 Dokdo Camp [2016.8.3~5]

2016 Dokdo Camp; Having Dokdo in Mind, Bringing Korea to the World

With people who share similar dreams and hopes, explore and discover Ulleungdo & Dokdo!

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Hello, this is VANK youth leader, Yoojeong Jeong (YJ)! I’ll be a three-day-reporter of 2016 Dokdo camp to give you glimpse of this camp:) This year camp was the luckiest camp ever, and you’ll know why in a moment. Also, there are some bits of interviews added so as to hear real story from the members.

Day1 (2016.8.3)

Although the day was scorchingly hot, VANK staffs and members gathered in Pohang at early morning to explore Ulleungdo & Dokdo. Let’s hear from some of our members to tell us why they participated in this camp! Let’s welcome Taegeon (T), Seo-won (S), and Dogyun (D) to this interview 🙂

서원 도균태건

YJ: So, What made you here to spend the last days of your summer vacation? Also, before you tell us more about this camp, would you please introduce yourself?

T: Hello, I’m Taegeon Kim from Jeju-island! I was always interested in Dokdo, and while I was searching Dokdo at the internet, I learned VANK and one-day lecture on Dokdo, ‘Global Dokdo Ambassador.’

S: I’m Seo-won Byun and I’m a student studying at Philippines. As I have more foreign friends than Korean friends, I could easily realize how foreigners have some wrong information regarding Korea. So, I was searching how to explain such wrong information in a right way and rectify them. That’s how I reached VANK and this camp. As Dokdo and East Sea are the most representative errors regarding Korea, I wanted to learn more on this matter.

D: Last not but not least, I’m Dogyun Kim from Gimcheon! Currently, I’m on the way to set up a VANK club at my school. Initially, this club started out as ‘Comfort Women’ club but we extended to other issues such as Dokdo and East Sea. And, while we were researching on these issues, we met VANK and decided to change this club into VANK club. With my club members, we participate in one-day lecture to learn more about VANK and the issues. During the lecture, I was moved and motivated to accomplish all the tasks from the lecture, and I was chosen as the camp member!

After we landed on Ulleungdo, we went straight to Dokdo museum and Sigaji observatory. This camp started off with learning more about Dokdo and experience whole view of Ulleungdo. It was much meaningful as the first spot was implicitly intended for members to address Dokdo with objective approach, rather than emotional appeal.

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At last, back at seminar room, we finally had time to introduce ourselves to others. Before we move into an actual team activity, we had two valuable lectures to help our members to understand more on the topic we are addressing. First lecture was truthfully motivated to bring out each member’s passion to act toward wrong information. Gitae Park, head of VANK, has strongly urged members to make actual action toward the issue, rather end up being mad and complain to others. Although there are limits, there are always ways to confront this issue and take action as a student.

 

Next lecture was informative lecture from Sori Lee to give utmost important information regarding Dokdo. She especially pointed out that we should not be cynical toward Japan, but to understand them. Furthermore, we should learn our situation and the perspective of the world, and thus deliver our history wisely.

Then, the first team activity started out with exciting music and the performance that was created by each team member. It was only after few hours since team members met each other, but they tried their best to become a one team and deliver their thoughts on Dokdo. Just wait for a moment to hear more stories about the team activity.

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Day2 (2016.8.4)

The weather was perfect for our trip to Dokdo, two and a half hours away from Ulleungdo by ship. The wave was so still that we were not even supposed to take a medicine for seasickness. This is why this camp was so lucky! Thanks to the weather, we were able to spend about an hour at Dokdo, which rarely happens. We went to the eastern island of Dokdo where police guard of Dokdo stays. And, back again with our three wonderful interviewees to tell us more about our exploration!

YJ: The climax of this camp, exploring Dokdo! How was it to actually visit and step on Dokdo? You guys might have felt something that is hard to put into words!

Seo-won: To be honest, at first, I didn’t have much expectation. I just thought that it won’t be that different from the photo of Dokdo. However, I realized at a second as soon as I landed that photo cannot express beautiful scenery of Dokdo. It was much more beautiful compare to any other photos taken by photographers. I thought to myself that I need to protect Dokdo not because we have to. But, because we need to protect the beautiful view along with valuable ecosystem within the island.6

Taegeon: Visiting Dokdo made one of my dreams come true! It was my life dream to visit and explore Dokdo as my future dream is to protect the island. First, I wanted to become police guard to protect Dokdo physically. However, I wanted to protect Dokdo in other perspective such as becoming international lawyer and act towards it. Dokdo is a true motivation and crux of my dream.

Reporter YJ: Then, let’s hear from other members who are also thrilled to tell us more! Let’s invite our lovely friend, Juyeon:) So, Juyeon, how was the Dokdo trip?

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Juyeon: Hello, I’m Juyeon and I just stopped by because I wanted to share my thoughts, too! Well, Dokdo would be the most memorable trip ever in my life. Some people would be questioned on why it is meaningful to visit Dokdo. I think this leads to same question why we go traveling. People these days enjoy traveling around the world, visit new places and experience new culture and unique life style. And these trips become bits and pieces of our memories that stay in our mind for a life time. It’s same with Dokdo! As we traveled to Dokdo with our friends who share similar hopes and dreams, this also becomes haunting experience that could never be forgotten. The reason we act on Dokdo became our own efforts to protect our precious memories with our friends, not because we need to protect our territory. Trip to Dokdo has built unforgettable memory to all of us!

After putting aside the sadness of leaving Dokdo, back at Ulleungdo, We had the second team activity. For team activity, each team had to discuss on specific ways of responding to major media, which is the primary source of spreading wrong information around the world. Such media includes CIA World Fact Book, Lonely Planet, Google Map, Microsoft Bing Map, and etc. All of teams were having common basis that they all have credibility on such media and this is the very reason why they should rectify the mislead information. So as to give credible information to all the readers around the world, media should not provide information that was intended to promote imperialism.

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Day3 (2016.8.5)

As the last day of the camp, we gathered in seminar room for wrapping up our camp by each of us sharing personal comments on the camp. And then, we went to last trip around the Ulleungdo that extended our haunting memory from Dokdo. As it is our last part of trip, let’s get back to interview to hear the overall comment of this memorable camp!

Reporter YJ: So, our long but short journey to Dokdo & Ulleungdo has come to an end! It would be a bittersweet moment for all of us. Still, I would like to hear overall comment ! There must be a lot of things that you learned and thought to yourselves.

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Dogyun: Well, before I came to the camp, I was both excited and worried as I get to spend three days with people I first met. But, as soon as I arrive and meet my team mates, all my worries were gone and spend the days with excitements. Also, this camp would be a great help for me to set up VANK club in my school. Now, I understand VANK vision and right response toward Dokdo and East sea issue as in student level. With my club members, I would actively take action and pile up small changes to bring bigger changes. Personally, I have come up with approach to myself, as well. To myself, as my dream is to become researcher of biotechnology, I always dreamed of promoting peace in my own field of expertise. However, it seemed contradictory to be interested in global issues and disregard domestic issues. I would always try to be interested in both aspects along with building up my expertise. In short, this camp has become one of turning point for me in various ways!

16-2Taegeon: Personally, I thought I know many things about Dokdo. But, I realized that knowing is not enough, taking action is the most important part. The most memorable part was the second team activity, when we had to come up with ways to rectifying wrong information in foreign major media. I thought to myself that I should not only focus on learning factual information regarding this matter but, I should actually write down formal letters to rectify the wrong information in foreign websites. I would not stop as knowing about it but take further step to take action.

Seo-won: I was a little pressured to come to this camp, as I am preparing for entering university. But, I learned there are more things to learn outside the textbook and experience something new. Also, this camp has changed my dream, as well! I wanted to become an interpreter or translator but, I wanted to engage actively on these matters. Now, I want to be a person who participates in various international conferences and meetings to represent Korea. This would also help me to choose my major in university. I appreciate everyone including VANK staffs that have made this wonderful opportunity for us.

Juyeon: My dream is to become a webtoon(web comic) artist and I would like to apply what I learned at camp with my dream. I want to draw a webtoon that introduce Dokdo to the world that could easily read by people without any resistance. This webtoon won’t have one-way contents, but a flashback of this precious memory and hope to share this story with others.

So, this brings up the finale of this camp! How this camp sound to you?

With people who share similar dreams and hopes, explore and discover Ulleungdo & Dokdo!

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66th UN DPI/ NGO Conference

1464841355939.jpegFrom May 30th to June 1st, VANK was given the opportunity to participate in the UN DPI/NGO Conference. Being that this was the first UN conference to be held in Korea, it was a big event for Korean NGOs to be involved in. The main theme for this UN Conference was Education for Global Citizenship and the concept is based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that were recently adopted by the UN at the UN summit in September 2015. The main goals that the SDGs want to accomplish is ending poverty, fight  inequalities, and tackling climate change. The SDGs are the successors to the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) that the UN developed back in 2000, and the SDGs include a total of 169 targets that are related to the 17 goals.

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At the booth VANK focused on presenting the following to participants of the conference:

  • Intoduction of VANK (The great movement of a small organization)
    • How VANK was created
    • Members of VANK
    • What VANK does
  • VANK’s 2 Main Education Programs
    • Cyber Diplomacy Program
      • 14-step education process
    • Worldchanger Program (Focus on SDGs)
      • 12-step education process
  • Cases of VANK Members having an impact on the World
    • Sang-min Kwak
    • Yea-jin Lee
    • Gae-ra Yang
    • Agnieszka Michaelzyk
  • Promotional material that VANK offers to educate the youth and members
    • World Heritage Map
    • Vision of Asia Peace Map
    • Humans Rights World Map
    • Maps for Worldchangers
    • SDGs World Map
    • SDGs Postcards
  • Event: Provide feedback about VANK/VANK’s booth or a simple task and/or strategy to accomplish one or more of the SDGs

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People who participated in the event were given promotional materials as a courtesy for participating in the event. In addition to the aforementioned promotional material, VANK also provided participants with “Mugunghwa” Korean Maps, Jikji Postcards, and Korean Food Postcards.

Overall, the reaction of people to VANK’s booth was successful. More than 100 people participated in the event and people from different countries (not just Korea) were able to learn about VANK’s motive, the SDGs and how individual people can make a great impact to the world.

Traveling to Gyeongju for SDGs

 

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From May 30th till June 1st, the 66th UN DPI/NGO Conference was held in Gyeongju, Korea and the VANK staff and I had the opportunity to participate at the conference. Being that the conference’s theme was about SDGs and education for becoming a global citizen, it was a perfect fit for VANK to be a part of this conference since VANK’s Worldchanger education program exemplifies this theme.

1464841356476.jpegOn the first day, we gathered in front of VANK and packed up all our bags and things that we needed for the conference into the car. We then started the long jouney to Gyeongju and it took us about 5 hours to reach our destination. We then got to the convention center and prepared our booth as the opening day was tomorrow. The design of the booth was really nice and stood out from many of the other booths.

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After the setup of the booth, we had dinner and then arrived at our pension. The area of the pension was really interesting because you could hear hundreds of frogs croaking throughout the night. We then held a short meeting to plan out our agenda for the next day and prepared the promotional materials that we would pass out to the participants.We then played a game of Korean jacks to decide who would have to prepare breakfast for the next day. Luckily, my team didn’t lose (1 point difference) and we were able to enjoy an extra 30 minutes of sleep.

The next day was the opening day of the conference and so after spending about an hour at the booth, most of us headed to the 3rd floor of the conference to watch the opening ceremony and see UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon speak. After the opening ceremony, we had lunch and then worked at our exhibit.

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For this day, I got to wear a hanbok (Korean traditional clothing) and introduced our organization and booth while wearing it throughout the day. It was my first time wearing a hanbok and I needed some time to adjust to the clothing, but overall it was comfortable to wear and warm at the same time.

 

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At the booth I talked about VANK’s origin, history, and the present day of where VANK stands today. I also talked about the 2 education programs that VANK offers which is the Cyber Diplomacy program and the Worldchanger program. The Cyber Diplomacy education program covers Korean history, culture, and territorial and social issues while the Worldchanger education program focuses more on SDGs and global issues. Both of these programs focus on the idea that one person can make a big difference in the world, and VANK also displays this message accurately, being that it is a small organization that has already affected over 140,000 members in a mere 17 years. I also talked about the various cases where students have made a huge difference and contribution to society. One example of this is the elementary student Gwak Sangmin who is a VANK member. After making a pen pal friend from Kenya, she learned about the poverty issues that her friend suffered from and wanted to help out in any possible way. So she started to fundraise on the streets by herself and any money that she raised was sent to her friend in Kenya. Her parents were eventually also inspired to join her in her fundraising and eventually, they moved to Kenya where they established a preschool to help educate the youth. Finally, I explained about the different promotional material that were on display and about all of the different topics that they covered. The promotional material made up of videos, maps, and postcards were the core foundation for educating the VANK KakaoTalk_20160602_145424924.jpgmembers and thus a very important part of VANK. Also, I asked if the person I was explaining to was interested in participating in our small event and if they were, I gave them some of our promotional material on display as a reward.We also arranged shifts so that each of us could explore the different booths around us. There was a lot of people of various backgrounds that came to our booth and many of them were interested in the work that our organization did. Many people also complimented the designs of our promotional material and design of our booth. I also got to meet many people from various countries and it was interesting to see everyone gather from such remote locations to meet at this one location for this conference. There were even people from countries that I had never heard of in my entire life like Tajikistan.

There were also many interesting booths around us like Peace Boat and UNAI and there were even booths where they taught you exercise routines or yoga. One of my favorite booths at the convention was Good Neighbors because they offered VR headsets to help simulate and see the actual reality that was happening in countries that were suffering from poverty, especially in the Africa region. The video I watched was about a young girl who had to work hard to create food for her brothers and sisters. The food seemed to have a pasty kind of texture and did not look appetizing at all, so it was more depressing to see that the kids had to eat nourishment like this just to survive.

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There were also a various number of roundtable lectures and workshops where they covered various topics. I participated in one of the roundtables which focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) and how they can help create an equal education system for everyone. However, the solutions that they presented were very vague and generalized which was slightly disappointing.   At the end of the day, we ate dinner and then returned to the pension to rest for the next day.

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The next day was the last day for me and a few of the VANK staff. The other half were planning to stay till the end of the conference. We arrived back at the conference center and got back to work at our booth. This day, I got to meet a professor at my home college and it was interesting and nice to see someone in full Hawaiian attire after being away from home for so long. After eating lunch at the conference center, we parted with the group that was staying and we headed back to Seoul. It was a rough journey back (6 hours…) but we finally made it back to Seoul in one piece.

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Thanks to VANK, I feel that I got to experience something special and being that this was the first UN DPI Conference in Southeast Asia, it made it that much more unique. Also, seeing all the different NGOs gather in one area and show their common interests and goals made me appreciate more of the objectives and tasks that all these organizations wanted to accomplish. Even if some ideas were different, the end goal was to help create a better world for everyone to live in equally. I was glad I got to experience this conference and see all the various people from various countries gather at one spot to share their ideas for a common goal.

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-VANK Intern (2016): Troy Chong-

 

 

 

A Young Man’s 5000 Year-Old Dream

Korea has a rich history of over 5000 years. In those 5000 years, many great historical figures of Korea made huge contributions to helping Korea become the country it is today.

King Gwanggaeto was one of those great figures. During his reign, he made Goguryeo (Korea) the center of Northeast Asia and lived by the founding principles of the 1st Korean kingdom of Gojoseon: Hongik Ingan (Promote the welfare of all humanity) and Jaese Ihwa (Rule the people under the order of the heavens).

Another great figure was General Seo Hui, who helped to bring peace in Northeast Asia. Through diplomacy rather than violence, he was able to avoid war for his country and even expand its territory, obtaining six garrison settlements east of the Amnokgang River.

One of the greatest figures in Korean history was King Sejong of the Joseon dynasty. To distinguish Joseon from the China-centered world during that period King Sejong created many unique traditions and culture. This includes the creation of Hangeul (Hunminjeongeum) and even the creations of calendars and clocks to help people adjust to their own country rather than following China’s adaptions.

Just like these historical figures that changed Korean history, we must persevere in trying to change Korea today. A unified Korea will help to change the history of Korea and help bring peace in Northeast Asia. It will also get rid of the nuclear threat in North Korea and a new civilization will be formed. Help VANK in bringing and change to the world together!