By Yoo Jin Lim
From February 6th to 15th, ASW 10th grade student Sung Hyun K. attended an “unification experience camp” in South Korea.
At the camp, 153 people including Korean next generation families, multicultural families, adoptees, and even foreigners explored and received an opportunity to understand what would happen if Korea is reunified and what Koreans can do to make Korea whole again.
Warrior News: What were the activities/programs in the unification camp?
Sung Hyun: The activities or programs were mostly related with unifying both Koreas. We visited a center that illustrated an unified Korea, and we learned about the ecological park in the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) which was pretty interesting.
We also went to the DMZ observatory and the Jeongok Prehistory Museum. In the observatory, we got to interact with soldiers and learn in depth about the DMZ. In the Jeongok Prehistory Museum, there was a wall packed with letters, all from North Korean defectors. The letters were basically about their escape, and how much they miss their families in North Korea.
Moreover, we went to Panmunjom (Military Armistice Commission Joint Security Area), and it is located in North Hwanghae Province in North Korea. I was in bloody North Korea!
Did you meet any North Korean defectors?
Of course, I did. His name was Oui-Ryuk Lee and he escaped North Korea at the age of 21. For his main job, he works as a Police officer in Seoul, capital of South Korea, and for his secondary job, he does lectures about his live in North Korea.
Which stories did he share in the lecture?
He basically outlined his life since he was in North Korea, and his attempts on escaping. Before the escape, Lee’s youth was crushed by the political system in North Korea. With no food and shelter, Lee at the age of eight was sent to an orphanage with his big sister. In the orphanage, Lee was forced to do labor work and farming from five forty-five o’clock in the morning to six o’clock in the evening.
When he turned eighteen, he was forced to leave the orphanage and was drafted into the army. Three years later, he tried his first attempt on escaping. Unfortunately, he got caught which resulted in seven months of torture in the concentration camp. Lee showed pictures of the scars in his back, his shoulders, and his legs, and said, “They gave me scars that weren’t necessary.”
He attempted to escape again and managed to arrive in South Korea. Eventually, he met his mother by the help of the South korean government. He mentioned, “I wasn’t mad at my mother leaving me when I was eight. I was just grateful that she was still alive.”
What did you learn from the story?
Overall, I thought that it was a very heart-touching story. The youth that this man has suffered in the past ten years is a memory that cannot be erased for his entire life! We should be grateful of what we have and what kind of environment we live in. I think these kinds of stories would eventually lead us to understand that unifying the both Koreas is essential.
What is your opinion on the unification of Korea?
As a South Korean teenager, living abroad, I didn’t have much opportunity to know how important the word “unification” was. However, now I think that it is undoubtedly important for our country.
Why do you think so?
The DMZ is just a small restricted area, but the differences between the nation are substantial. They are both called Korea, but one is suffering due to its ruthless leader, and one is a great economic success. The differences are too big for North Korea and South Korea to be called the same nation at this moment. So I think that the country should be unified as soon as possible and grow into an economically, culturally, and politically successful country.