“Do participants really go to Middle East countries? Isn’t it dangerous?” “We need to cast aside those thoughts. This is the purpose of Youth Exchanges between governments.”
The Korean government has been practicing a diverse international exchange program for youth. Korea Youth Exchange Center works to arrange the exchange of youth in the world as one of the government’s policy. The Chung-Ang Herald (CAH) visited the Center to listen to what kind of work do they do.
CAH: I know Korea is pledging an Exchange Youth agreement with 26 countries. How did it form and what is its purpose?
CENTER: To understand various cultures all over the world and shape communities between countries is the goal of the youth’s global leadership program; Korea has pledged its agreement with other countries at government levels. The contracting government invites students from trade nations to take part in together in diverse programs that are provided. In 2008, the dispatching plan for each country will be announced at the beginning of this month through a homepage. Program is opened throughout a year.
CAH: What is supported by the government?
CENTER: The Korean government and its trading countries create Exchanging Youth programs and develop their contents together. The nation, where Korean students will visit, offers accommodation, catering, and interpreting service. The Korean government pays for thirty percent of the airfare. The Korean government does not give financial support for all the fare, because it gives responsibility and makes participants to act more of their own accord.
CAH: The Korea Youth Exchange Center’s website introduces many programs and their content. Would you tell me the details of the program?
CENTER: Each country has a main theme according to their traditions and culture. For instance, Malaysia is a multiracial country. Therefore, their program shows how education has progressed for various races. With the focus on this theme, a troop of about ten participants visit the nation’s organizations, do volunteer activities, experience their education style and others. Home-stays are most popular. Through home-stays, participants feel the reality of the culture best.
CAH: Participants are picked after testing. What is required of them?
CENTER: Participants must be eighteen to twenty-four years old. We focus on the applicant’s comprehensive understanding of the program. This includes the applicants understanding of the purpose of the program, and how much they have studied other countries and cultures. Additionally, we offer more opportunities for applicants with little experience overseas, and who are from households in poverty. Additionally, we consider a balance between boys - girls and the residence considerations. However, we do not give a lot of concern about an applicant’s English ability, because most trading nations do not speak English and there is an interpreter. The Youth Exchange program’s aim is to interchange culture, not to learn a foreign language.
CAH: I read a postscript written by a participant on the Center’s homepage. One student wrote that she was embarrassed when a foreigner asked about Korean culture during her participation in the program. To introduce our culture to foreigners, what is needed to prepare?
CENTER: The Center manages an advanced workshop to boost understanding about visiting a foreign country. In addition, participants can hear the real stories from past participants about their experiences. Above all, it is the participant’s personal effort to study the culture and the history of both countries.
CAH: Finally, please give advice to applicants and participants.
CENTER: Be a private diplomat. ‘Dae Han Min Kook’ is written on the foreheads of past participants. I want participants to know about Korea first and achieve many things through conversation with the local people as much as they possibly can.
Applicants should not apply as if they are adding a career on a resume, but they should consider this participation as no slight journey. Lastly, an applicant should understand the program from information on the website before applying.
One student was later hired to work in Chile after taking part in the Youth Exchange program. Many participants keep touch with the friends whom they met in the program, making global network. It gives chance to applicants at a precious experience. Now, it is your turn to challenge for this.
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Korea Youth Exchange Center: 801, Banghwa-dong, Gangseo-gu, Seoul 157-856, Korea