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Women's Leadership Program Empowers High School Students to Build Peace in Korea

By Keiko Sometani

In South Korea, the major focus of high school students is studying for college entrance exams with little opportunity to think about world affairs or even about their own country’s affairs. Professor Roger D. Kornberg of the Structural Biology department at Stanford University, and current professor at Konkuk University, remarked that the Korean method of cramming is depriving students of unique worldviews.

Haley directs students at Youngduk High School during women's empowerment
workshop

Furthermore, high schools girls in Korea are l0% less likely to be supported by their peers in developing political views than men. With this in mind, Heeryoung “Haley” Kim, a member of Global Peace Foundation’s (GPF) Global Peace Women Young Leaders Academy in Korea, initiated a leadership program for female high school students to freely share and develop their viewpoints on Korean and foreign affairs.

From March to December 2018, Haley led the program called “Break your world, Gals!: Empowerment project for Youngduk Girls’ High School.” One of the important components of her program was a special workshop for leadership development. A total of 40 high-school girls participated in the program’s two sessions: one in May at Bundang Youngduk Girl’s High School and the other in June at Ganghwa Gracehill Youth Center.

Youngduk students during women's empowerment workshop
Youngduk Girl’s High School students during Global Peace Women leadership workshop led by Haley Kim

The leadership program consisted of discussions and diverse activities after each lecture, including field trips, interactive sessions with guest speakers, and service projects. The program sparked the girls’ interest in social issues and awareness of the Korean peninsula in relation to the world. This gave them the chance to form and express opinions about domestic and international affairs in lectures and open discussions. One participant, Hye Jin Park said, “It was exciting to see many friends sharing different opinions to each other. [From the program] I learned that having a good moral standard is a complex and critical quality for a leader.”

Youngduk Girl’s High School students at the Women's Empowerment workshop

One of the School faculty members, Hye Young Lee said, “I’m grateful to her [Haley] for conducting the workshop effectively, stimulating the students’ critical thinking. I look forward to our girls growing up as powerful female leaders like Heeryoung.”

The girls in this program were given the unique opportunity to think critically about world affairs and grow their leadership capabilities. Thanks to leaders like Haley, young girls in Korea are feeling empowered as leaders who can contribute to building a world of peace starting on the peninsula that will determine security in the region and have global implications in the years to come.

Seoul, South Korea will be the host of the 2019 Global Peace Convention from February 26 to March 1, the 100th anniversary of the 1919 March 1 Movement. For more information on the One Korea Global Campaign and the March 1 Korean Independence Movement 100 year commemorations visit: 1dream1korea.org