Monday, March 01, 2010

Teenagers lead the way in reconciling the Koreas

A program seeking to overcome the yawning cultural gap that has developed during the six-decade divide between the Communist North Korea and capitalist South Korea brings together teenage South Koreans and North Korean defectors in a rare experiment in building affinity — and preparing for possible reunification.

The “Weekend Program for South and North Korean Teenagers Together” was begun in Korea last August by the Rev. Benjamin H. Yoon, 80, head of the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights.

“Although we share the same genes, South and North Koreans live like completely different peoples, with different accents, different ways of thinking and behaving,” said Mr. Yoon. “We forgot that before Korea was divided.

Under the program, the Citizens’ Alliance brought together students from a girls’ High School in Seoul with young North Korean defectors for extracurricular activities.

They have attended concerts together. They have cooked and compared North and South Korean dishes. The North Koreans, adept at farm work, have shown the South Koreans how to harvest yams and make scarecrows. The Southerners have given the Northerners tips on how to succeed socially as well as academically. They have made friends.

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