As pessimism toward unification soars among young South Koreans, experts have called for greater efforts to strengthen unification education and tackle unification-related conflict within the South.
The Korea Policy Research Center is set to hold a seminar this afternoon entitled, “Developing a Plan for Strengthening Unification Capacity.”
In the seminar pamphlet, Professor Jo Chol Ho of the Institute of Unification Education wrote, “Only one half of the Korean peninsula was liberated in 1945. The reason why unification with the other half has not yet occurred is due to insufficient unification education.”
“Unification education is still plagued by restrictive political neutrality, and the clash between security and peace. Many have highlighted the importance of societal effort, agreements and the use of consistent educational materials,” Jo argued.
“There is a need to develop rational material in accordance with universal values. We must also build systemic, political and legal mechanisms to prevent this educational material from the influence of vested interests from either side of the political spectrum.”
It was alleged that while positive elements exist in the current curriculum, many areas require an overhaul.
“There is the concern that unification education in elementary and middle schools is weakening. In universities it doesn’t exist at all. Moreover, the materials used are criticized as they are are insufficient in preparing students for a post-unification world. There is also a clash between multiculturalism and nationalism. Unification education requires a rich array of information on North Korea, and must coach students in how to approach practical integration issues.”
“Rote learning” should also be avoided, and two-way discussion and debate between teachers and students encouraged. “Rather than state-run education, we need to create a system where civilians can take part in a flexible manner.”
Professor Jo believes that this move would “strengthen those who support unification and weaken those who oppose it, both domestically and abroad.”
Another speaker on the panel, Professor Lee Ji Su of Myongji University, argued “It’s possible to nurture the perceptions of ordinary people through unification education, and it should be provided to all South Koreans. But considering the urgency of the matter, the focus should first be on Korea’s youth, including university students. We need to find a way to link an understanding of North Korea with the future aspirations of the young.”
In his opening remarks, Head of the Korea Policy Research Center Yoo Ho Yeol said, “Unification is more than just integrating two territories. Unification will only be complete when the two peoples are integrated. This in turn will only eventuate with the demise of conflict within the South and a burgeoning desire for unification.”
Yoo concluded by stating, “Before any move toward Korean integration, we first need to unify our hearts and build up mutual trust to solve the South-South conflict. A plan must be enacted to form the right kind of education, and to strengthen regional capacity for eventual unification.”