International Youth Exchange 2013
Japanese and Korean Youth Friendship Exchange Project (2013, September 3 – 17) Participant’s Report
~ It’s About Japan and Korea becoming “Hana” ~
2013 Japanese and Korean Youth Friendship Exchange, South Korean Delegate, Mitsuki Oono
Reason for Participating in the Project
Firstly, there are two reasons for why I wanted to participate in this project. The first was because I was strongly drawn to the phrase, “You can make friends in Korea and Japan” that I remembered from the university’s explanatory meeting. After spending one year at a small junior college with only about 250 students, I thought that in my last year I’d like to do something that will stay with me my whole life.
The second reason was that I wanted to discover the Korea that I didn’t know and couldn’t see on the news.
During my stay, all of my experiences were wonderful and memorable but there were a few in particular that I’d like to reminisce about.
Japanese and Korean Youth Exchange
First, the main event was the cultural exchange with Korean youths.
When I met the Korean Youths at Yondoku for the first time, I was a little nervous, but as soon as I got off the bus their big smiles and welcoming mood put me at ease.
I think the Korean youths were very helpful in regards to language during these important three days of exchanges. I can’t speak Korean but they eagerly spoke to me in Japanese.
Even those who couldn’t use Japanese very well, did their best to express their feelings to me. Compared to those Korean youths, I could hardly use Korean and just depended on the group members for help.
My number one memory from the trip was the regretful feeling of not studying Korean more before the trip. On the evening of the Japanese – Korean Cultural Exchange Event I performed the Yosakoi dance that we’d practiced since my pre-trip preparations began. I saw grins, serious looks and other expressions on the faces of the Korean youth watching me dance, but I felt a real sense of accomplishment and an indescribable feeling welling up inside me after I finished and heard their cheers. However, that sense of accomplishment soon faded away and at the end of the event we sang the Japanese songs “Fuusen” and “Sekai Hitotsu Dake No Hana” together in a big circle. After that we danced to Crayon Pop’s “Bar Bar Bar”.
During the whole trip, I felt the greatest sense of togetherness and excitement, while dancing the same dance together with everyone. Under the event slogan “Japan-Korea Become 하나 (Flowers) and Let’s Bloom”, in the moment that we danced as one, I felt Japan and Korea truly bloomed.
During the latter part of the trip, we stayed for three days and two nights with a family in Goyang, a suburb of Seoul. It was the first homestay I’d ever done and I was really nervous. Our host family had two daughters who were 12 and 9 year old.
The two seemed shy at first but with smiles and kindness they bashfully held hands with us while walking. That really made me happy. I was called “Onni” and I really felt like a part of the family.
We enjoyed grilled meats and Karaoke the first day and on the second we visited the Korean-style sauna where our host mother works. We spent time with the children, made Gimbap at home, watched animation, and experienced a normal Korean family lifestyle.
Our host family didn’t fuss over us but were candid and treated us like real family. 人生初のIt was my first homestay and I got a very special, new family.
The Joy of New Friendships
By participating in this event I got the chance to meet a lot of wonderful people.
Even though the coordinator, local translators, and of course the Korean youth were busy, they always cheerfully participated with us during these 15 days.
During the trip I met various people whom I came to respect for their sociability, energy, and intelligence – traits I don’t have. It was a gathering of 29 members with great personalities, including the group leader, vice-group leader, and those in charge of public relations.
A lot of things happened in these three weeks, including the pre-trip training. Opinions clashed during discussions but it was probably due to the desire we all had to improve our event and fulfil our important task of becoming “Hana.”
From Now On
During this trip I really felt the contributions of those who previously participated in this event. They made time to come from Seoul to Busan, quite a distance, to assist us with the program. They actively helped us with our exchanges and discussions. After seeing them, I decided to set a goal for participation after the event as well.
Many youth will continue to participate in this event as we did. So my goal is to actively contribute in order to make the trip and exchanges even better for my juniors, as my seniors did for me.
Moving from a “Close but far away country” to a “Close and closer country” may be difficult from a political point of view. However, if we, the youth of our countries, recognize each other, appreciate and respect each other, that distance will surely decrease between our citizens. Going forward, I think we will need to continue working toward this goal.
Before participating in this event, I never thought about these things. I was a student with no interest in foreign exchange, but this Youth Friendship Exchange Project changed me, and having the chance to meet everyone who participated in in the event is my most valuable asset. I’d also very much like for my juniors at the University of Shimane Junior College to have such an experience. I’d really like to help them to try it. Finally, I’d like to sincerely thank everyone who helped make this event possible, and I'm grateful for the tuition money provided by the university. Thank you all so much.