2019 sejong korea trip
Sejong Korea Trip Staff
Julia S. Park - Trip Director
Joanne Park - Social Worker
Noah Sinangil - Trip Assistant
Sun Graham - Student Assistant
Jed Kim - Tour Guide
2019 Sejong Korea Trip Itinerary
July 09 (Tue): USA - Korea
JFK International Airport, New York USA
July 10 (Wed): Incheon - Seoul
Arrive in Incheon International Airport
July 11 (Thu): Seoul
Agency Visit (For adoptive family only)
Changing Guard Ceremony
Gwangwhamun Plaza (King Sejong & Admiral Yi Sun Shin Statues)
Young San War Memorial Museum
The Orphanage visits
July 12 (Fri): Seoul – Sejong City
Welcome Reception at Dowon Elementary School in Sejong City
Lunch at School
Attend Open Classes
Meet up Homestay host families
July 13 (Sat): Sejong City – Jeonju
Jeonju Hanok Village tour
Jungdong Catholic Church
July 14 (Sun): Jeonju – Gwangju - Jeonju
Visit 5.18 Memorial Park
Cooking Class (Japche)
Korean Traditional Dance
July 15 (Mon): Jeonju – Bosung – Tongdosa
Bosung Tea Farm -Make your own green tea
108 Prayer Beads
July 16 (Tue): TONGDOSA – Busan
Jagalchi Fish Market
Bupyung (Gangtong) Market
July 17 (Wed): Busan
Dinner at Gwanghanli Beach
July 18 (Thu): Busan - Ulsan – Seoul
Hyundai Auto Factory (10:00 AM)
Move to Seoul by KTX (2:30PM)
July 19 (Fri): Seoul – Yongin – Seoul
Yongin University-Taekwondo Class
Shopping at Insadong
July 20 (Sat): Seoul-Paju
DMZ Tour: DORA Observatory
The Third Tunnel
July 21 (Sun): Seoul – Incheon
Yongin Korean Folk Village tour
Move to Incheon International Airport
Dowon School in Sejong City!
High School Math Teacher
Dwight Englewood School, New Jersey
I had always heard that schools in Korea were very rigid and regimented. My Korean friends painted a picture of serious, somber students trudging their way through endless assignments.
Imagine my surprise when we visited the Dowon School in Sejong City! This was one of the most vibrant, happy, and productive schools I’d ever seen. The school was decorated beautifully: bright colors, kid-
friendly furniture, and cute corners with pencil motifs. Everything about the building was designed to stimulate the minds of the elementary aged students.
Of course, the school was more than just a beautiful building. The teachers were obviously dedicated to providing engaging content for the children. In a second-grade classroom, we watched as the students learned about the life-cycle of a frog. To help them remember this, there was a song and a dance that they enthusiastically participated in. In fact, I would say that dance seems like an effective mode of teaching, as we also witnessed dancing in a fifth-grade physical education class. Here, students were put into small groups and tasked with choreographing a dance to a rock song. The students were clearly enjoying themselves as well as learning about the importance of physical activity!
My favorite part of the visit came at the end of the day, when we were led to the gymnasium to learn from the students. One group taught us the lyrics and dance to a K-Pop hit (and they were very patient with any lack of coordination!) Another group instructed us in Korean writing and Tae-Kwon-Do, while a third group very enthusiastically taught us Korean games! Perhaps everyone’s favorite lesson was the one on how to make pat-bing-su: a delicious Korean treat made from shaved ice, condensed, milk, and red bean paste. I can honestly say I spent the rest of the trip looking for this delicious treat wherever we went.
I was so glad to visit the Dowon school and see a side of Korean culture that was new to me. The memory of the students I met there- who are so much like their American counterparts, a world away- will stay with me forever!
Associate, Office for Identity, Culture, and Institutional Equity (ICIE)
Horace Mann School, New York
I must admit, I was very nervous about my homestay experience. I didn't know if we would be able to communicate or if I would inadvertently do something that would offend them. Luckily these worries were for naught. I got to know not only one amazing family but two!
I stayed with Bisu, her husband and her two sons. Her oldest son Hoo Min attended the local elementary school. Bisu's sister Ja-Shon also lived in the same housing complex so I was able to spend lots of time with Ja-Shon, her husband and her two sons as well. Ja-Shon's oldest son Pon-Min, who is in the same grade as Hoo Min, was able to speak English really well so he became our
defacto translator. Pon-Min helped me with my Korean while I helped him with his English.
The first night, Bisu's family was also nervous but we quickly broke the ice over food and games. We went to a local light and water show where we ran into another educator with their host family. During the day, they took us around to local cultural sights. The second night was also illuminating. In particular I bonded with Ja-Shon over our love of talking frank about politics. Through lots of Google Translate, we were able to have complex discussions about North Korea and Japan. In turn, I shared my experiences as a Black woman living in Trump's America. I learned so much about the day-to-day experiences of South Koreans through these two wonderful families. They did everything in their power to ensure I felt welcomed and at home. By the time it came to leave, we were all tearing up and wanting the stay to last longer.
The homestay was an integral part of the tour and my personal highlight of the whole trip. It is an experience that I will never forget.
Hope and Positiveness at DMZ
Special Education Teacher
Edgemont School District, New York
As part of our trip to Korea, we spent a day visiting the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Since this area has been in the news so often, I have always been curious about this truce-line established at the 38th parallel in 1958 as part of the Korean Armistice Agreement between the United Nations, North Korea, and China to end the Korean War. It extends across the 160-mile width of the Korean peninsula. This zone is home to many ecosystems because neither country can fire weapons, build military personnel or start any act of aggression. This has been in effect for over 65 years.
I was immediately struck with the beauty that surrounded me. The DMZ contains mountains, plains and rivers. It was so green and lush and calm. It is home to over 2,900 kinds of plants, over 70 mammals, and over 320 kinds of birds that are indigenous to the Korean Peninsula. All these treasures are internationally protected endangered species. It is a unique stretch of land for so many
As we approached the passport checkpoint, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by an area that looked like any other vacation spot you may find worldwide. It was relaxed and appeared cheerful. Soldiers were present, but not intimidating. Many were helping tourists such as our group and put everyone at ease.
Our first stop was the Gyeongui/Dorasan Station, which was reopened to the public on April 11, 2002. This station is in the northernmost station and will play a central role in connecting Gaeseong, Pyongyang, and Sinuiju to the Eurasian continent. You can see the barbed wire fence, but this station is a sign of hope and connection of North and South Korea. This station really made an impression of me and I look forward to hearing about its opening.
Visiting and walking The Third Tunnel was quite an experience. On June 10, 1978, a pipe broke and South Korea was able to gain access to one of the tunnels that North Korea had intended to use for military invasion. A North Korean defector had informed South Korean military, but it took some time to make the discovery. As we descended with our hard hats, it is unbelievable to acknowledge that this tunnel only took 3 months to build. It was nerve racking, but I was so curious. At the end of the tunnel a concrete blockade has been installed to prevent usage by the North. We were told by our tour guide, Jed, that there is evidence that this tunnel was intended for invading the South. There is no coal in that area, traces were left on the rock wall to disguise
the tunnel as abandoned coal mine. A very moving experience.
Our final stop in the DMZ was when we visited the Dora Observatory. It is the South’s northernmost observatory for watching North Korean’ activities. We used a telescope to view Freedom Village (Daeseong-dong Village) and a demonstration village “Kijung-dong” in North Korea. Despite these short distances, people from South and North Korea have not freely traveled to see other for over fifty years. Here is where I felt you see the tragic reality of Korea’s division.
As we drove away from the DMZ area back to Seoul, I felt a feeling of hope and positiveness. South Korea is open to welcoming back their relatives and friends. Throughout the country you see all ages posing with finger-hearts and I am sure these hearts will be the first symbol used to express their love for their fellow brothers and sisters.
Gratitude for/to Korea
Nursery Co-Head Teacher
Horace Mann School, New York
Thank you for a 14-and-a-half-hour flight that gave me sleep after teaching a year of preschool.
Thank you for bubble tea, bibimbop, jacpchae, bingsu, tempura, honey butter chips, street market donuts, kimchi, soup for breakfast, and fried chicken at midnight.
Thank you for a host family that allowed cultural barriers to be broken down to allow an open dialogue between two histories: Korean and Jewish. Thank you for stories shared that we each would never have known.
Thank you for BTS, karaoke, classy toilets, 24-hour malls, tea farms, fish markets, Artbox, KakaoTalk, airport robots, and taekwondo.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to come out from behind my adult walls and play like a child.
Thank you for new friendships that have come at a time when they mattered most. Thank you for these connections that are meaningful, deep, and unique.
Thank you for Tongdo Temple for releasing me from pain and regret through meditation and self-reflection in nature. Thank you for giving me guidance in overcoming sadness in a way I thought would never be possible in this lifetime. Thank you for giving me the power to smile over my memories, rather than hurt. Thank you for a feeling of freedom.
Thank you for giving me the platform to be my best self while being a role model for others. Thank you for reminding me that I have gifts to share and that laughter is the way into anyone’s heart.
Thank you for showing me that picture taking truly is better with two peace signs.
Thank you for forcing me to second guess my previous conceptions of people whom are and are not like myself.
Thank you for the beach, mountains, and city.
Thank you for allowing me to be a better teacher with the ability to support my students’ cultures in order to find strength and pride in their heritage and individuality. Thank you for teaching me how to pass on this knowledge and better educate those around me as well.
Thank you to the educators, minors, families, participants, guides, and Julia. Thank you for turning a six-hour bus ride into a songfest and forming this family.
Most importantly, thank you for Raccoonamatata: Coffee Dessert Playing with Racoon
Seoul Searching 2019
I was adopted from Seoul, South Korea in 1981. I have grown up in rural central Illinois from the age of 9 months old, with two loving parents. Rewinding to 2014, I was notified that there was a typo with my social security number. When I was requested to bring all of my original documentation in, I learned that my birthdate was actually a different date than I had always celebrated it. I began to ask my dad more questions, and found out that they had changed it, so I would share a birthday with my grandpa, and attributed it to the time change from Korea to the United States. It wasn’t until 2017 that I started contemplating an adoption search. I had never felt that I was missing a part of me, as many adoptees. However, curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to purchase a DNA kit online.
I began researching more, and asked my dad if he had any of my original adoption file. He could not find them, and neither could our family attorney. My dad did refer me to a woman, Ellen, who had been adopted from Korea through a close family friend, and had been successful in her adoption search to locate her bio family. Ellen also used to provide social work services for Sejong Cultural Education, Inc. and assisted with
reuniting adoptees with their bio families. I was able to track her down through social media, and she was so helpful in guiding me through the search process! I was able to contact my adoption agency, Social Welfare Society, in Seoul.
The agency emailed me a copy of my file, where I found out that I was actually abandoned on a street less than 24 hours after birth. Whomever had abandoned me had also left a note with my actual time and date of birth also. My entire life, I had this assumption that I was born in a hospital and that my parents simply signed me over to an adoption agency. I had read several books that stated many adoptees are just given birthdates for documentation purposes, but may not actually know their true date of birth. This was amazing to me that I was at least given that much identification at that time.
I forwarded my file to the woman who was helping me, and she contacted Julia Park, Trip Director of Sejong Cultural Education, Inc. She sent her my file to review, and also told her my story. Fast forward a few more months, and I received an excited phone call from Ellen. She told me that Julia had told my story at a presentation she was giving in New Jersey. A very kind lady in the audience, Heijin, asked if she could sponsor me for the upcoming Sejong Tour. This would be my first time being exposed to Korean culture, and also returning to my homeland
My oldest son and I participated in the 2019 Sejong Korea Trip, along with several other families, educators, and adoptees. We were all there to experience the culture, but each with a different purpose. I cannot express the gratitude I have for Julia, the Trip Director, our social worker, Jo, and Jed, the owner of the transportation/tour company. They coordinated such a wonderful trip for the group, with tailor-made experiences for each of the adoptees. We were each accompanied to our adoption agency to review our records. Julia and Jo accompanied each of us, not only to translate, but to also advocate for us. Each of us had a different experience, and one was lucky enough to meet her birth mother and family. Julia made special arrangements for me take a DNA test at a local police station, and also to travel apart from the group, so I could see my actual discovery site. It was so surreal standing in the exact area that I was found when I was less than 1 day old. I told Julia that it made me more curious about my history, and a part of me felt like I missed a part of me that I never knew existed. It was a happy moment of realization for me…one that I will never forget.
In addition to my own personal experience, regarding my adoption, the entire trip was absolutely wonderful! We traveled from Seoul, down to Busan, and back to Seoul over the course of 12 days. We were warmly welcomed by students and teachers at a local elementary school. They taught us how to play their games, make their ice cream, and how-to K-pop dance. The children were so excited to showcase their English skills! Our host family could not have been more welcoming. One of our favorite days was getting to wear the hanbok attire around the markets. The orphanage that we toured was also very warm, and welcoming. The National Memorial Cemetery was a very solemn, and emotional journey back through time. It also seemed surreal that when I was born in South Korea, it was still under a dictatorship at that time. The food was absolutely amazing…make sure you bring your appetite, because you will definitely not go hungry on this trip! These are just a few of the experiences that we had while on the tour. We also made several new acquaintances, which I’m sure will turn into lifelong friendships. The Sejong Korea Trip is so much more than just a vacation. It is the experience of a lifetime!
We thank the following individuals, businesses and organizations for their inspiration, devotion and valued support in making the 2019 Sejong Korea Tip possible:
* Dowon Elementary School in S. Korea
* Gwangju Convention & Visitors Bureau in S. Korea
* Horace Mann School, NY
* Korean American Families of Edgemont School District, NY
* The Chun Family from Dwight Englewood School in NJ
* The Horace Mann Korean Parents League
* The Korean American Parents Group of Dwight Englewood School, NJ
* Tong Do Sa Temple in S. Korea
* Heijin Kim
Homestay Host Families from Dowon Elementary School
Jong-Woo Ahn Family
Si-Eun Cho Family
Yoo-Dam Chun Family
Chae-Eun Kim Family
Hyun-Min Kim Family
Soo-Hyun Oh Family
Eun-Suh Park Family
Jong-Hoon Won Family
Hyung-Jun Woo Family
Sung-Won Yoon Family