Skip to comments.N. Korea: On the fringe of the headlines (admission officer of Kim's grandson speaks out)
Posted on 10/05/2011 6:37:04 PM PDT by TigerLikesRooster
On the fringe of the headlines
It is not very often that I can say this, but over the past few days I have been on the fringe of a news story that was being reported around the world.
A few days ago, on 27th September, the Croatian daily newspaper Jutarnji published a story speculating that Kim Jong Ils grandson, Kim Han Sol, had enrolled in the United World College in Mostar (Bosnia-Herzegovina). The story was quickly picked up by news media around the world, including AsiaOne in Singapore, Chosunilbo (South Korea), The Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Associated Press and Forbes. Although I have no idea who leaked the story to the press, or why, I knew that the assertions behind the story were basically true because I had played a significant role in setting up Kims enrollment.
Soon after arriving as Head of Li Po Chun United World College in Hong Kong in 2004, I established the North Korean Goodwill Initiative (also reported on the UWC website HERE). The vision of the Initiative was to establish goodwill links with young people and educational officials in North Korea with the dual purposes of (a) giving our students a first-hand experience of North Korea through educational study tours, and (b) establishing funding structures that would eventually bring meritorious North Korean students to study in United World Colleges around the world. With the generous assistance and support of the Rotary Club of Kowloon North, I took six groups of students - Young Ambassadors - to North Korea between 2005 and 2010, providing almost 100 students from many countries with a first-hand experience of meeting with young North Koreans of their own age, talking freely with them, and experiencing life in this most distinctive society. Photos and reports of the trips can be seen HERE.
When I left Hong Kong to move to Houston, responsibility for the North Korean Goodwill Initiative was taken over the Head of Languages, Mr Ronny Mintjens, who took the seventh group of students from Hong Kongs United World College to North Korea in August this year.
As a result of the links built over seven years by my Young Ambassadors and the trust that was established, Kim Han Sol heard about Li Po Chun United World College and made a direct application to the College. He was attending a school in Macau at the time, and as neither Macau nor North Korea has an established UWC Selection Committee (yet!), he applied through the IQ (International Quota) scheme. In accordance with the established procedures, he was interviewed - and indeed, I was his main interviewer. I remember speaking with him for about two and a half hours, and I came away very impressed with his idealism, charisma, and overall abilities; he is quite a remarkable young man. On the basis of the merit he demonstrated, he was offered a place at Li Po Chun UWC.
Unfortunately, despite several months of effort and several appeals, Hong Kongs immigration officials refused to issue a student visa for him (as they also chose to do this year with all the students selected from Nepal and Cambodia). Therefore, at the tail-end of the admission process May and June this year, I began negotiating with the other UWCs to see if any of them had a place they would be willing to offer to Han Sol - this is normal practice when visa problems occur; the UWC Heads try to find a place in another school for the student who has been selected. Several other Heads replied to me offering places, but for a variety of reasons, the College in Bosnia was judged to be the best fit for Han Sol.
As news leaked that the grandson of Kim Jong Il would be attending a United World College, a flurry of Facebook chatter quickly spread. Much of it occurred on the UWCs official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/uwcio?v=wall. Although the vast majority of the comments were very positive and reflected genuine excitement about the potential of this pioneering enrollment, a few comments were less so and some even speculated nepotism of some kind. As a result, I broke my silence and posted his note: I was part of the selection process and the principal interviewer for this student. Any speculation about nepotism needs to be dismissed right here and now. The selection was 100% merit-based, following the UWC guidelines to the letter. He was an IQ selection from Macau (because neither North Korea nor Macau has a National Committee yet). The student in question will make an excellent UWC student in my opinion, and for all the right reasons. His commitment to wanting to understand others from different backgrounds and his personal commitment to working actively for peace should be an inspiration for many others in UWCs. I believe that no-one should judge him, or anyone else you have never met for that matter, because of things in a person's family background - that kind of stereotyping can be very dangerous. He is a very impressive individual, and should be treated as such. I could add more about the positive historic impact made in reforming the Soviet Union and China by AC's early students from the USSR and the PRC, many of whom used their significant connections for positive ends, but I hope I have made my point. It is grossly unfair for a 16 year old to be judged on Facebook by folk who have never met him. I am delighted to say that my comment seems to have been very well received.
I expect that Kim Han Sol - like all properly selected UWC students - will be a great asset within his school and will help the other students overcome their stereotypes and prejudices. Similarly, I think that his attendance at a United World College presents him - again, like all UWC students - with a wonderful opportunity to understand the thinking and cultures of young people from all over the world, helping him to develop the insights that will help him fulfill his idealistic aspirations.
I believe that the links established between my former school and North Korea represent a real cutting edge example of overcoming significant barriers to build authentic understanding between young people, cutting through media stereotypes (on both sides) and enhancing the chances of peace for future generations. It is encouraging to think that the first North Korean will soon be attending a school where principles of understanding, tolerance, diversity and service to others, not to mention high academic standards, are taken very seriously indeed.
When I took my first group of students to North Korea in February 2005, we learned that we were the first group of foreign students ever to visit North Korea. In 2010, as mutual trust grew and regulations became easier, I took my first student from the US (a girl from Seattle who was attending LPCUWC at the time) in the group. I had a vague hope that one day - eventually - I might be the one to take the first group of students as goodwill ambassadors to North Korea from a US school, but I suspect that someone else may have already achieved that honor if I interpret the testimony HERE correctly. Meanwhile, I understand that in Hong Kong, the North Korean Goodwill Initiative is alive and well, and that the momentum continues to make some very significant breakthroughs sooner rather than later.
As an educator, I believe that the potential for education to bring about transformative change of historic dimensions is enormous everywhere in the world - but perhaps nowhere more so than on the Korean peninsula.
UWC in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina has announced the acceptance of North Korean student Kim Han Sol. The 16-year old will be the first student from North Korea to attend a UWC and benefit from the transformational educational experience that UWC offers.
The UWC movement identifies diversity as one of its core values. In bringing students together from a range of cultural, social and economic backgrounds, we can further our mission to make education a force for peace and a sustainable future. We aim to develop students who are multi-cultural, socially confident and morally responsible. During their time at UWC, alongside their academic studies, students participate in a variety of community service activities and develop skills to resolve the tensions within and across society. We expect that all students who participate in our programme, from whatever background, will ultimately be of service and influence in their home and the wider global community.
Li Po Chun UWC, based in Hong Kong, has been operating an outreach programme with North Korea for a number of years, sending student ambassadors to the country to engage with young North Koreans and learn more about life in their country. The enrollment of the first North Korean student to a UWC is a natural consequence of this relationship.
Keith Clark, Executive Director, UWC International commented UWC is proud of the transformational nature of its education. Diversity is key to the educational experience and each year UWC welcomes a diverse cross section of students to its schools, colleges and programmes.
Like · Comment · September 29 at 10:07am
Everybody, I got something interesting here.
Thanks for the ping, Tiger. What do you think this could mean?
Is this you Tiger?
No matter how well meaning he may be he strikes me as one a twin of one of the greatest characters ever in literature:
T Coddington Van Voorhees VII
From our dear friend Iowahawk!
Read it and weep, if you haven't already!
Tiger you are bad ROFL
Very interesting Tiger! Thanks for the ping. How much influence does Kim Jong Il have over his grandson?
Very interesting Tiger! Thanks for the ping. How much influence does Kim Jong Il have over his grandson?
I think a more interesting question to ask is, how much influence does Han Sol have over Kim Jong Il ... and I think I know the answer coz I’ve spoken with him ...
Shadowy group protecting the son of Kim Jong-un’s assassinated brother vows to rid North Korea of the ‘great evil’
The Daily Mail UK and AFP ^ | 02 Mar 2019 | Miranda Aldersley
.Cheollima Civil Defense (CCD) declared itself the legitimate interim government In a statement on its website on Friday it vowed to fight Kim Jong Un’s regime CCD say they are protecting Kim Han Sol, the son of murdered Kim Jong Nam ...
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