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'Children on the border' portray their future in classroom of unified …

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작성일18-12-19 11:44 조회1,652회 댓글0건

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A scene from the musical titled "Tomrrow's Yeomyung" depicts a classroom in Pyongyang set in the future after the unification of the two Koreas. Students of Yeomyung School presented the musical at the Global Mission Church, Bundang-gu, Gyeonggi Province, Nov. 24. Korea Times photo by Jung Da-min

By Jung Da-min

In a high school of a united Korea, two groups of students confront each other: one attired in North Korean-style white blouses and red scarves and the other with typical South Korean high school sweater vests.

When the bell rings to end the rest interval between classes, a teacher enters and tells the students to open their textbooks. A fragile peace returns but only until the class ends. 

A South Korean student raises her hand and asks the teacher which textbook they should use. Confusion continues as he tells them to make do with what they have until a unified textbook is made available. 

Then, a northern student reads his book with an accent, causing a southerner to shoot back "Is that literature?" The voice is full of disdain about the North Korean propaganda he reads from it. 

The cast in these scenes from the musical "Tomorrow's Yeomyung" set in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, are back to reality, their school in Myeong-dong, downtown Seoul. They attend the school for students from North Korea and third countries with the same name, which means dawn in English.

Yeomyung students' orchestra and chorus performance for the 14th Yeomyung Day event. Korea Times photo by Jung Da-min

"We wanted to present how a classroom would look, when the two Koreas are united," Kim Jin, 20, senior who played the role of a South Korean girl coming to a Pyongyang high school told The Korea Times. "I think there would be a lot of trouble as we have different cultures and accents."

Like Kim, other students who participated in the musical said they were not very positive about the unified classrooms as they already went through difficulties in South Korea because of cultural and educational differences.

Kim said she found no meaning in her life when she was living in China after leaving her home in Hyesan, Ryanggang Province in North Korea in 2013. She fled to the South in 2016.

"After coming to Yeomyung school, I found myself really enjoying volunteer activities for the elderly and the disabled," Kim said. "I want to be a social welfare service worker helping them."

Yeomyung students' orchestra and chorus performance. Korea Times photo by Jung Da-min

The musical was part of a performance presented by the students, which also included a taekwondo demonstration, and orchestra and choral recitals for the 14th Yeomyung Day event at the Global Mission Church, Bundang-gu, Gyeonggi Province. Despite the season's unusually heavy first snow, the audience turnout was larger than expected, according to the organizers.

"When I first came to Yeomyung School, I knew nothing about what hard things are happening in this society," said Min Hyo-bin, 20, a senior who dreams of becoming a copywriter. On that day, she ran a photo zone together with classmate Son Hyun-ok, taking pictures for the participants.

Min, from Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province, arrived in the South in 2013. She graduated from a middle school and decided to attend Yeomyung. 

"The good thing here (at Yeomyung School) is that you can learn and experience community life," she said. 

Yeomyung students demonstrate taekwondo during the 14th Yeomyung Day event. Korea Times photo by Jung Da-min

Another student, Jung In-hyo, 18, also a senior graduating the school in three months, said he changed a lot thanks to the devoted teachers. Jung played the flute during the orchestra performance.

Born in Jilin Province, China to a North Korean mother, he came to the South in 2015.

"Frankly speaking, I did not come to live in South Korea at first, but my mom did not get me the ticket to go back to China, when I came here for a trip," he said.

"But I started to like life here and changed a lot thanks to the teachers of Yeomyung."

He said he was hot-tempered and often quarreled with his mother and teachers, although now he is calmer.

Yeomyung principal Lee Heung-hoon making a speech at the end of the orchestra and chorus performance. Korea Times photo by Jung Da-min

The students say they could learn how to live in South Korean society through various activities including community services and field trips. They especially thanked the devoted teachers.

"Our teachers are doing a lot of tasks other than running classes, to provide a better education for our students," Yeomyung principal Lee Heung-hoon said. Every year 89 students attend the school, although the number of defectors has been on the decline in recent years.

"As our lease contract with the current building in Myeong-dong is ending, we have to find a new building to move in within two years," he said. "We need to build new educational programs as well as finding a new school site."

Actress Choo Sang-mi pitched in with a fundraising speech, while Lee Song, a Yeomyung graduate who starred in a movie, explained her escape from the North and her family left in the North. Choo's directorial debut "The Children Gone to Poland" was recently screened nationwide. It is about the stories of North Korean orphans sent to the Eastern European country on the orders of Kim Il-sung, the North's founder, following the devastating 1950-1953 Korean War.

Actor Choo Sang-me making a fundraising speech during the 14th Yeomyung Day. Korea Times photo by Jung Da-min

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