Twelve elementary students in two groups with six members each started playing game to recite Korean words starting with certain initial consonants at Kyoto International School, a Korean school in Kyoto, Japan on Tuesday. All Korean-Japanese and Japanese students were seen thinking hard to come up with as many such Korean words as possible. They managed to recite not only common words but also some difficult words. Students learned from a mentor teacher why “gunin” (original spelling is “gunnin,” whose meaning is solider) is a wrong spelled word. All the teachers are college students from South Korea.
Amid rising South Korea-Japan tension after Tokyo started export restrictions, the group that has been visiting Japan to give a volunteer education program every year for 10 consecutive years is drawing attention. The South Korean volunteer group for education called “Gukin,” which means national human resources, international human resources, has been deploying some 60 college students to various Korean schools in Japan since 2009. Marking the 10th anniversary of volunteer activities this year, the group sent 80 South Korean college students, who are teaching the Korean language and culture at National Foundation School and Kumkang School in Osaka, and Kyoto International School from July 19 to August 3.
Korean schools in Japan often eagerly wait to receive South Korean volunteers as their students can have a chance to engage in exchange in Korean language with South Korean college students, and learn Korean culture. About half of students enrolled in Korean schools in Japan are Japanese nationals.
College students who are visiting Korean schools in Japan agreed that it was a great thing for them to visit Japan to participate in the volunteer education program. “Since South Korea-Japan relations have deteriorated rapidly, frankly I was anxious until the moment I took the flight,” said Kim Ha-yeon, a student from Seoul National University.
“If our small steps combine and gather momentum, they will help the two countries resolve political conflict.” said Kim Seung-hwan, head of Gukin. “We considered suspending volunteer program activities for a while due to the latest disputes between the two countries, but we’ve decided to step up private sector exchanges all the more in times like this.”