When one thinks of the notion of human rights in KIS, or South Korea in general, a nice picture of equal access to opportunities and protection from harm come to mind. Even though South Korea may not be perfect in its adherence, with many criticizing it for its continued prejudice women in the workforce or the disabled, South Korea is generally well-regarded in its attempts to foster a society with human rights protection for all. However, up north, the same cannot be said of the country shrouded in a dictatorial regime where the basic ideals of human rights are not upheld or considered. For this reason, it’s often important for students at KIS to look at the greater world beyond, observe the injustices that still pervade society, and reflect on how they can contribute to global efforts concerning the guarantee of equal rights for all.
The Human Rights Week held on February 20-24 2017 served to fulfil these goals, with a school-wide inclusion that comprised of several keynote speeches with well-known guests such as North Korean defector Lee Hyeonseo as well as Director of Research & Strategy at Liberty for North Korea Sokeel Park.
For the most part, the school held a positive attitude concerning the Human Rights Week, with many becoming interested in learning more about North Korea and stories of defectors on a more personal level.
“I enjoyed human rights week. Human rights week personally gave me memorable insights about the experiences and hardships behind refugees, especially with the North Koreans. Although I knew that this was an issue, it was always in the back of my head, and I didn’t really care for it; however, with Hyeonseo Lee’s personal anecdote and the CNN’s producers explicit videos, it really touched me in a way that I’ve never felt before. I feel really grateful that I was part of this experience, but I do think that it wasn’t enough to promote learning of human rights abuses. With hundreds, even thousands of people struggling everyday to reach their freedom, I feel like we should devote more time and dedication to this cause.”
-Tae Young Uhm(18′)
However, at the same time, several students felt that Human Rights Wee hadn’t done enough.
“I personally thought it was a lot more organized than last year— there was a coherent theme and the guest speaker really focused on the theme (unlike last year). However, it proved to be a disappointment for me once again because even by the end of the week, I wasn’t sure of the purpose for what the week was, nor was I sure of its objective. I definitely appreciated being able to hear personal accounts which made me aware of the ongoing human rights abuses in North Korea, but that was something that I already knew about. So if you ask me what I learned from the week and what exactly it achieved, I wouldn’t be able to give you an answer, but I definitely did enjoy the overall involvement and passion the KIS community had in this event.”
What can be said though is that KIS is taking the right steps toward fostering a community in which more students are able to empathize with such pleas for freedom around the world. The efforts were started last year by several clubs, a major contributor being the Global Ambassadors Club.
“The Human Rights Week at KIS is a week designated to commemorate all the efforts made to make our global community a fair community. It is also a week where many clubs get together to raise awareness on issues that may be a concern to human rights violations and through this effort we hope to bring a reaffirmation to our common humanity, stand up for the well-being of our communities, and learn from our community leaders and activists.
I still remember the day US Ambassador Lippert first came to KIS to give a very memorable lecture that has resonated and empowered my peers on campus. The lecture definitely did ignite the minds of all of us to gather up some more courage to lead meaningful projects at school. After the lecture it not only implemented Human Rights Awareness to the students but also produced a Human rights awareness fever. By teaching the students about human rights, more and more clubs started to form relating to the topic of Human Rights and other global issues; some clubs that formed were the Justice League, North Korean Refugees club, and many more. We have come a long way since I co-founded the club and invited US ambassador Mark Lippert. It’s been a great pleasure to lead organize the second annual Human Rights Week. Last year, our guest speaker inspired the whole campus to get active with our community. This year, I hope our guest speakers can inspire us further to expand our perception on what it means to raise awareness for human rights.”
-Kai Kim(18′) Global Ambassadors Officer
Where KIS will take these efforts from here on out, no one knows for sure. But it’s no doubt that we will continue to grow and learn in order to combat the problems of the world of today and tomorrow.