Teens learn Korea’s more than kimchi

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Teens learn Korea’s more than kimchi

HONOLULU
“Before participating in this program this summer I knew almost nothing about Korea, just from what my Korean friends told me,” said Miguel Cajipe, 18, a Filipino high school student. “Basically all I knew about was kimchi, the flag, the Korean War and the division of North and South.”
Two weeks later, he had become grounded in issues involving U.S. troops stationed in Korea and the South and North armies.
Mr. Cajipe was one of 26 high-school students from nine countries to participate in the 2004 Kamehamaha School Summer Institute for International Studies, a junior scholars program held late last month at the private school’s Kapalama campus, overlooking Hawaii’s cosmopolitan capital.
Like Mr. Cajipe, who transformed himself into a charismatic Korean defense minister, all the program’s participants became mini-experts in specific fields related to their appointed country by immersing themselves for up to six hours daily in research at the library, then debating and proposing resolutions spanning economic development, human resources, public works and education to improve their Pacific Rim country.
Between their studies ― and a few outings to nearby beaches and museums ― each country delegation also made a kiosk, a logo and a brochure for their appointed country.
The research built up to a climax at the “International Solutions for the Pacific Rim” forum. Leaving shorts and T-shirts behind, delegates donned business attire to present their resolutions. After each presentation, the floor was opened to debate, followed by voting (all of the resolutions passed.)
For many of the teens, the forum was an inspiring and memorable experience. “I felt important, as if we were really going to make a change,” said Mariana Hernandez Cano, 16, from Mexico, who acted as prime minister of Papua New Guinea. “It was amazing that we were sitting down on the same chairs that real presidents had sat down on.”
As Korea’s defense minister, Mr. Cajipe sought the eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea, recommending their departure by 2010. Meanwhile, as South Korea’s president, Jillian Luis, 16, a Honolulu native, aimed to improve relations between North and South Korea by establishing more reunions between the two countries. In particular, she suggested that 500 families meet monthly at Mount Geumgang in North Korea.
Both Korean delegates seemed satisfied with their results as the nation’s leaders. “Being minister of national defense gave me a greater sense of the country,” said Mr. Cajipe. “I learned about the ability of the Korean Army and its dependence on American military intelligence. I also learned the dilemma that the South is facing, trying to reunify with the North while keeping close relations with Americans.”
Ms. Luis said the program enabled her to view Korea in a more intimate way. “I understand the problems they are going through, and within the two weeks I studied Korea, I now feel like I have some responsibility to help out. I was so intrigued by their culture and the respect they have for everyone.”


by Woojung Chang
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