Saturday, June 21, 2014

North Korean Defector Conference in Daegu

I'm writing this from Daegu, where I attended a conference for English teachers who volunteer with North Korean defectors around the country. The weekend-long camp, the first of its kind, I believe, was an opportunity for the teachers as well as their students to connect and have fun together. Since none of my students attended the camp (we had our own fun activity yesterday at the movies: Edge of Tomorrow in IMAX 3D!), I came just for the workshop programs today.

Besides getting to hang out with some of my Fulbright friends, which I always appreciate, I was able to get a refresher on teaching tips and tricks and learn more about the background and organization of South Korea's Hana Centers. I was surprised to learn that the centers are a relatively recent government initiative (most having been established within the past decade) and that they are all somewhat independently managed. Changwon's Hana Center is hosted in (and maybe by) the city's branch of the Korean Red Cross. Daegu's is in the care of the Empathy for a Better World Foundation, which actually runs tons of other defector- or reunification-related programs, too. The Empathy Foundation does a lot of stellar work with defectors; if you're interested in NK defector issues and in Daegu, go check them out.

Anyway, I had a great day, but unfortunately I can't stay the night or attend Sunday's programming. My black belt test for taekgyeon is tomorrow morning! I have to get a good night's sleep at home.

P.S. Completely unrelated: in downtown Daegu, my friend and I espied an older Korean man wearing a UCLA t-shirt! I pointed at him quite unabashedly, having forgotten for a moment that not being Korean doesnt make you invisible in this country-- in fact, quite the opposite. To hide my embarrassment, I went all in and called out, "UCLA!" The man stared for a moment, then laughed when he realized that I had only been reading his shirt. And he called back, "Ooklah!" My friend, who happened to be a UCLA graduate, turned to me and remarked, "I guess that about sums up how much he knows about his wardrobe choice. Funniest thing I've seen in Daegu today!"

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