Category Archives: Past Events

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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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 🙂

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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-

 

 

 

Second week in VANK [Aga]

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My second week in VANK is almost finished.  How do I feel?

I think I kind of got used to atmosphere here and I feel really naturally now. Two weeks has passed really fast. Today is Friday and I was so sure it’s Thursday… sadly, it’s not.

It’s so strange that work here is not boring for me. I do things that interest me, I explore Korean culture, I learn history. There were some events and even though I wasn’t very active I felt interested. It was first time when I had to tell about myself in front of 70 kids. It was unforgettable experience. I am usually a person who gets stressed so easily. Though I don’t show it, inside my brain there is a ton of thoughts, my heart is running crazily. Even though I’m such a person, I wasn’t stressed at all. Okay, maybe a little bit but compared to my usual reaction it was nothing. I am not sure if kids understood me but at least they were smiling. I’m glad for such an experience even if it was only my introduction.

Work at office is also nice. It’s also some kind of an experience that will be precious for me when I go back to Poland. I will tell my friends how many nice people I met, how much I’ve learned.  Once again I am happy to be here and grateful for VANK choosing me for their intern.

Once again, food in Korea is so delicious I want to eat and eat and eat but my stomach is not that big. The only shock for me was fish with head. I think I can’t eat anything that has a head… I prefer not to know how it looked like before it went down to my stomach. Apart of that, I love everything I ate here. People from office are always recommending mi something which I always like. They know my taste so well. Oh! THANK YOU!

Now… let’s get out of office. Weather here amused me a bit. I thought I will run away from cold weather but Korea is also cold. Luckily I am used to Polish temperature, which is -20 in January, so I’m not complaining. I took warm clothes with me and I think I won’t freeze to death.

Anyway… I’m going sightseeing even if it’s -40. My camera is ready, I am ready and waiting for Saturday morning!

How much I don’t want to go back to Poland. When I think that it’s another week closer to me leaving Korea, I feel sad. Time flies so fast…….. too fast.

First week of international intern, Rebecca

<My first week in VANK>

* Rebecca (Chen zhijun)

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What I have done:

Visiting  vank website to know more about vank.

Study Korean history, culture and etc. by attending online.

Register to prkorean.com and watch videos, write down my feeling about these videos.

Read the book “May we speak”.

Doing a presentation to introduce China

Search the information and details about Nanjing Massacre.

Attend a history lecture.

This week was the first week I came to Korea. All of jobs written down above make me know more about vank and Korea.

Korea is quite different from what it was in my mind. It is a right decision for me to come here, change the opinions about Korea.

There are too many things leaving me a deep impression.First of them is the historical lecture .Although I cannot understand the whole Korean lecture,I know contents they talked about by Yoo Jeong’s translation. I learned this period of history in my senior high school. t is one of the most important part in Chinese history book, especially relationship between Korea,Japan and China. I didn’t like history in my senior high school, like many Chinese young people. Now I know how important it is.I cannot judge the behavior government of other countries. I believe in my country.And I think one day we can solve all of these historical.

The second is Korean food. We come to different Korean restaurants at lunchtime. Korean food is really delicious for me. I cannot choose my favourite from so many kinds of food. Everything is new and fantastic for me.

I want to learn more Korean language and tell my Korean friends more about China in the future. I believe by my efforts Korea and China can get a little improvement.

First week of International intern, Aga

<My first week in VANK>

* Aga (Agnieszka Michalczyk)

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On the first day of my work I came to the office  a bit scared. I wasn’t sure what I will do or how people there would be like. A day before I was thinking really a lot about my future work.

So.. it’s almost 9am and I’m entering the office full of anxiety, scared and not sure how people will react when they see me. But I was surprised, positively surprised. I was greeted warmly by Gi Tae. It was another shock, how is that possible that boss is so nice, enthusiastic and just open to people. He was smiling all the time which made me a bit relaxed. Though I wasn’t prepared for another explosion of joy when Bo Kyung entered the office. Everyone was just so nice. I couldn’t imagine better welcoming. I thought in my previous work in Poland people were kind but I guess I didn’t know what kindness is. I didn’t expect such a warm welcoming as I didn’t expect such a nice work. I think I can understand why people in the office smile so often, the atmosphere here is so pleasant and warm. I can only hope it will stay as it is now which I’m sure it will.

The welcoming was perfect and so were those 4 next days. I was waking up every morning with a smile on my face and coming to office for a work was a pleasure for me. I could experience various of new things. Of course I had my responsibilities but while doing work I learned as well. What is more, I had a chance to meet minister, which was a really great experience for me, participate in historical lecture (though it was in Korean and it was hard to understand, I enjoyed it a lot and learned pretty much during a short lecture), or be interviewed. I have to mention delicious food I was able to try during lunch hours! I am happy that I was able to come here and work with VANK. I’m looking forward for next weeks and I hope they won’t finish too fast.