On May 22, Park Kwong-ho, the current director-general for unification education planning, visited SIS as a guest speaker. Dr. Park holds a PhD in political science from Seoul National University and has worked under the Ministry of Unification since 1989. With his extensive knowledge and experience, Dr. Park delivered a presentation on reunification to students from AP World History and Asian Studies classes and later opened the floor for students to ask questions or express personal opinions.
“I thought the presentation was informative in terms of giving students and teachers background information on the division of the Korean peninsula,” said Michael Silber, Asian Studies teacher. “Although some of the teachers and students probably had some level of prior knowledge, the speaker was able to organize in a clear and cohesive manner why the Korean peninsula became divided in the first place and why the South Korean government is interested in pursuing reunification for economic, political, and sentimental reasons.”
Dr. Park began his presentation by emphasizing that he was not speaking in order to convince students one way or another about how they should view reunification, but rather to offer new insight for them to consider in forming their own opinions about the topic. His presentation included many unique points about reunification, such as the example of East and West Germany to hypothesize what Korean reconciliation might look like. The lecture also delved into the history of Korea’s division, the living and commercial conditions of North Korea, and government activities from both sides that allowed the two countries to maintain diplomatic relations.
“I thought the event was interesting because all of the students listening were history students and very much interested by the content discussed,” said Angela Lee (11)., a student who attended the event. “Everyone was asking a lot of questions, and some students even raised points of objection against some of the ideas introduced by Dr. Park. Overall, I think such events are educational for students in that they provide students with the opportunity to express their opinions freely while allowing them to learn more about pressing political issues.”
This event marked the first time Dr. Park visited an international school to lecture to high school students, allowing him to enjoy this new opportunity along with the students. Since this event was based on open discussion between Dr. Park and the students regarding reunification, it allowed Dr. Park to listen to opinions on reunification from the unique perspective of students attending an international school. By listening to the various opinions on reunification through these lively discussions, Dr. Park was able to further understand some of the concerns many students expressed on the feasibility of reunification and its short-term implications.
“I believe any academic community should have outside speakers visit in order to offer new perspectives and expertise on topics that may not otherwise be a regular component of class curricula,” said James Kowalski, AP US History teacher. “Having an outsider come to speak about a particular topic engaged our students and stimulated new ideas in a way that those native to the SIS community might not have been able to do as easily.”