[Lee Kyong-hee] Dokdo Onsite Classes for Multicultural Youth

“It was wonderful in one word,” said Kang Ye-jin, an art high school student from Seoul. “I found Dokdo so beautiful. It clearly occurred to me that we had to keep the island at all costs.

Like any Korean student her age, Ye-jin learned of Japan’s controversial claim to the East Sea islets from Dokdo, Korea’s easternmost outpost, also known as name of Liancourt Rocks. And, of course, she saw television images of the islets. “Honestly,” she said, “I wasn’t interested in the constant bickering about which country Dokdo belongs to. But the moment I faced the island myself, I felt very different.

A visual arts graduate aspiring to become a director like Tim Burton, Ye-jin was one of 19 attendees of the “Multicultural Youth Summer Camp 2022 on Ulleungdo and Dokdo” hosted by the Inclover Foundation last week. Dokdo’s visit highlighted the four-day photography camp for primary and secondary school students. Dokdo – two main islets and many surrounding rocks – lies 87 kilometers southeast of Ulleungdo in the East Sea. Ulleungdo itself is a six-hour, 200-kilometer cruise from Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province, after a four-hour bus ride from Seoul.

On the morning of August 12, the sky above the exquisite peaks of Ulleungdo was brilliant blue and the calm sea shimmered in the sunlight. Expectations have risen for a successful landing on Dokdo, which has less than a 50% chance throughout the year. Approaching the steep and rocky islets, our ship could not dock due to rolling waves. We were limited to going around the islets for about half an hour.

“It’s a pity that we couldn’t set foot in Dokdo because of the sea conditions,” said Kim Dae-jin, a high school student from Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province. “But looking around me, I could see a beauty that I couldn’t feel in any model or photograph. The impressive rocky islands were much larger than expected. It was nice to observe the landscape sculpted by nature between the steep fissures on the huge rocks.”

“I realized once again that we have to defend the island,” Dae-jin added. “When the school reopens after the holidays, I will tell my classmates that I saw Dokdo. It’s a great experience to brag about.

Upon arriving in Ulleungdo the day before, the students attended a lecture and were asked about the history of Dokdo, which is part of a public education program at the Dokdo Museum. Named “Dokdo Academy”, the program mainly targeted civil servants from all over the country to deepen their knowledge on the history and geography of Dokdo and the context of the territorial dispute. The students were the youngest audience of the program, in addition to being the first multinational group of young people.

“Frankly, the lecture itself wasn’t very exciting for us kids, but now I understand precisely why Dokdo is our land,” said An Seo-yeon, a sixth-grade student from Gunpo, Guangdong Province. Gyeonggi. She said she would share her new understanding with her parents.

All students are enrolled in the Inclover Foundation’s one-year photography course. The foundation also offers courses in woodcarving, cooking and baking, a program created for children from multicultural families. The mothers of the students on the trip come from six countries: China, Japan, Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam.

The photography camp on Ulleungdo and Dokdo is the brainchild of Han Yong-oe, founder and president of the foundation, which is dedicated to the welfare of multicultural families in Korea. Considering the location of the campsite and the distance to travel, as well as the cost of transporting students, mentors and staff, this was an exceptional feat for a small private organization. The unexpected and record-breaking downpour in the central region was obviously cause for concern at the last minute, but luckily there was not much rain along the route of the group’s trip.

Han explained that the camp was designed to increase the students’ understanding of Korean history and hopefully instill in them the notion that Dokdo is Korean territory. He believes that historical and cultural awareness is essential for multicultural children to settle into Korean society. “Children from multiracial backgrounds are bound to have a weaker sense of belonging to our society,” he said. “I think a trip to Dokdo can strengthen their sense of pride and belonging with native friends and have a positive impact on their future.”

Han asked the students to take as many photos as possible. His idea is that they could have more dialogue with their parents and friends, by showing their photos of beautiful landscapes of remote islands. The dialogue will likely reduce possible conflicts in their families and classrooms, helping students grow with self-confidence and love for the community, he believes. Later in the year, he plans to organize an exhibition of the students’ work and award them.

On the sidelines of the camp, Han carried out his flagship project of photographing local multicultural families. At the Ulleung County Health and Family Support Center, he took photos of 10 families, with a total of 32 members.

It was a one-stop volunteer service: Han and his team of six volunteers instantly transformed a room in the community center into a makeshift studio. Within 30 minutes, family photos were taken, edited, printed and framed, and presented to the families waiting in another room. In this way, Han’s team has taken and donated photos of some 6,000 multicultural families across Korea since 2010.

“Why do we show family photos? It’s for their happiness,” said Han, retired Samsung CEO and accomplished photographer. “The happiness of multicultural families is important to our society and our country. It will become more so in the future. »

Given the country’s lowest fertility rate – the lowest in the world – and Korea’s ever-increasing multicultural marriages, the inclusive upbringing of multicultural children and the happiness of their families cannot be overstated, as Han argues. .

Lee Kyong-hee
Lee Kyong-hee is a former editor of the Korea Herald. — Ed.

By Korea Herald ([email protected])

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