“World Peace Day” – A perspective from Korea on the UK Training camp

Two activists from the Korean Sharing Movement (KSM) participated in the international training camp at the University of Brighton in England.  This is the account of the experiences of Doo Ri Yang and Keun Young Jang.  The original, Korean version can be found on the KSM website click here.

“You might be thinking, ‘Why the UK? Just to play football?’. To introduce you briefly – F4P is a program initiated in 2001 to allow Jewish and Arab children in Israel to better understand each other and resolve conflicts through football. Our group, KSM, drew inspiration from this and have also been running a program called ‘Children’s Football and Peace Class’. Through this, children are able to learn about trust, respect, responsibility, justice and engagement, which, in turn, allows us to seek for peace between South and North Korea.

In the training camp, we spent four days with over 60 participants from UK, Ireland, France, South Africa, Iran, Sudan.  In total 13 nations. The makeup of the participants was also very diverse, from college student’s to government worker’s to NGO activist’s to professor’s. The participants’ ages spanned from the 20s to the 60s. The interesting part was that of the many people, we were the only participants from Asia. What could we have talked about in these four days with people of different backgrounds and experiences? ‘Peace One Day’!

On the second day of training, we got the opportunity to present our group’s history and activities, and the situation within the Korean Peninsula to the participants and students at the University of Brighton. As it was difficult to find common grounds, due to having people from varying backgrounds, we discussed and listened to each other’s situations and slowly became more understanding of one another. At first, the thought / assumption of the participants knowing little of Korea made it daunting but as we progressed more people started showing interest in the Korean Peninsula and North East Asia’s situation. We started with simple questions such as ‘have you been to North Korea?’, ‘have you met a North Korean?’ but at times it would escalate into a handful of questions. Coincidentally, this was during the same period where we actively initiated food and emergency aid for North Korea’s Hamgyeong Province which had experienced severe flooding. Contrary to what we had expected, the participants showed great interest on the matter displaying attentive listening skills and showed empathy. Although we participated with the intention of training in football, we were given many opportunities to speak about what we do. The University of Brighton and Graham Spacey (Head Of Operations, F4P)  found it very meaningful and interesting that South Korea, being part of a divided country, decided to participate in this program, which also led to the story being broadcasted on television.

On September 21, ‘Peace One Day’ events were being held in many locations to mark global Peace Day. We were offered an opportunity to introduce Korea’s situation and our own Peace initiatives. It was a very nervous moment but Doo Ri was able to explain our story step by step.

The day also had a festival for children within East Sussex and Brighton.  The most important thing was to form teams in a way that children of different backgrounds and environment were exposed to one another to promote inclusion and diversity. Followed by this was facilitating children to meet children and coaches of other races. This helped to eradicate the boundaries of sex, nationality, race and social class whilst participating in a common game where participant’s met each other as equals. In doing so we felt this would act as a butterfly effect effectively leading us one step closer to peace.

During our time at the camp there was a phrase repeatedly stressed by Graham that struck a chord with us and we felt we could resonate with – ‘We must meet one another’. For the past 20 years, KSM have been vocally active, strongly voicing our opinion to any willing listeners, as world peace and peace in general is a subject we both feel very emotionally attached to. We are all human, and we must not view others through a cloud of prejudice but we should try to clearly see each other’s faces and beliefs once we get the opportunity to meet. F4P’s consideration of the value of peace is neither outlandish nor complicated to integrate and incorporate into everyday life. We understand that problems of our respective regions and communities problem’s are ultimately intertwined. We hope that the people of South and North Korea can also learn to accept other cultures and experiences as we have.  We also deeply wish that children of North and South can meet, learn, play and integrate with one another. This is why we preach peace!”

Doo Ri Yang & Keun Young Jang