During the 2019 fall semester, student programming events in Seoul have repeatedly centered around North Korea. Every rotation city has a focus, such as San Francisco’s emphasis on entrepreneurship or Berlin’s focus on regeneration. Similarly, Anna Kim, Seoul’s SXP director, shared that, “North Korea related co-curriculars have been one of the main activities that we do here in Korea.”
Early in the semester, the co-curricular, “The Nature of the North Korean Issue,” focused on discussing the North & South Korean conflict drawing from historical information to consider reunification ideas. The second co-curricular, “Korean Peninsula Security Blueprint – Deterrence,” focused on the ideas of deterrence and the North Korean nuclear issue. SXP also offered a civic project with a non-governmental organization, Liberty in North Korea (LiNK).
The students working with LiNK hosted two community events: Minerva’s first-ever North Korean 10:01 and a Masquerade Ball fundraiser The 10:01 hosted a North Korean refugee who shared a traditional dish and spoke with Minerva students about her experience living in and escaping from North Korea. The 10:01 emphasized the social injustice and human rights component of current North Korean issues. The Masquerade Ball fundraiser was fully organized by the LiNK civic project team with a goal of increasing awareness of the refugee crisis.
These events provided an opportunity for students in the class of 2022 to engage directly with discussions around North Korea. When asked, Kim said that SXP plans to provide similar programming for future cohorts. She explained that “living in Seoul is an optimal chance for students to gain a deeper understanding of the unique challenges that both South Korea and North Korea are facing.”
Similarly, when asked about the significance of their project, students from the LiNK civic project team repeatedly emphasized that they considered this project a unique opportunity to engage in a topic of limited access. Grace Sommers, a student on the civic project team, said, “it’s been really significant to connect with an important political issue in the Koreas right now… having this access to the culture, to engage with South Koreans and North Koreans, gave [me] a unique perspective that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.”