Monday, October 17, 2016

Congrats to our Global Competence Program awardees!

We are proud to announce that five students have successfully completed Arlington High School's new Global Competence Program, in which they submitted a portfolio demonstrating their commitment to global studies. Please join me in congratulating AHS seniors:
  • Hannah Barrett
  • Zach deBesche
  • Bailey Holman
  • Alexander Klein
  • Amelia Ostling
In order to receive this rigorous certificate, students must successfully demonstrated their ability to…
  • Think Globally: Have an increased knowledge of their relationship to the world; think about issues from a global perspective; gain an appreciation for other world cultures, viewpoints and perspectives.
  • Communicate Effectively: Improve their foreign language skills and their ability to communicate with people across cultural and language divides.
  • Contribute Responsibly: Use their global knowledge to interact and build relationships with people from other cultures; actively seek world knowledge to develop their own values and perspectives; demonstrate respect, open mindedness, understanding and flexibility in behavior and thinking; help others to embrace multiple perspectives.
An integral part of the portfolio process is the Global Engagement Project. Each student chose a country of focus, and investigated a particular aspect of their culture in depth. We are pleased to share these exemplary pieces of student work here:

Hannah Barrett: "Evolving Gender Roles in Peru"

Zach deBesche: "Música Chilota"

Bailey Holman: "Italy's Government: From Rome to a Republic"

Alexander Klein: "Where It Went Wrong: How the Nazi Party Came to Power"

Amelia Ostling: "Two Koreas"

Though I had very little prior knowledge or experience with the differences between North and South Korea, it was something I wanted to pursue. I know that people who are separated begin to differ after extended periods of time, and I knew this had to be true about the two Koreas.

To start from the beginning, anyone who knows about the division of the Koreas knows of their differing governments. The North is a Communist dictatorship, and the South is a Capitalist republic. The North is very isolated and experiences famine, whereas the South is a global power and a rising economic giant. A few years ago, I read a book by Euny Hong called The Birth of Korean Cool. The book was all about the drastic transformation of South Korea over a period of 30 years. As recently as the 1980s, South Korean students had to be tested for parasites and lived in mostly rural areas. But if we fast-forward to the present, South Korea has one of the most robust hospital systems in the world and has multiple metropolitan areas. From my own travel to Seoul, I can attest to the fact that it is a highly populated, extremely modern and global city. South Korea experienced this huge growth, but one look at the news on North Korea makes their differences very apparent. Through the videos I watched about North Korean defectors, I learned about the dreary everyday situation. Many defectors recalled seeing starving children in the streets and frequent periods of food shortages and famines. Just looking at pictures of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, the stark differences between North and South are apparent. When looking at current pictures of North Korea, I feel as if I have been transported back to the 1950s, as if North Korea has been frozen in time since the division. This fascinated me, as someone who has lived in a very global and advanced country my whole life. How is it that two countries, which used to be exactly the same, have become so different?

Through my research, I began to uncover the answer to that question. First, the health of the citizens is very different. Because of frequent malnutrition in North Korea, adult men have experience stunted growth and now stand a full 15 centimeters shorter than their South Korean counterparts. Additionally, many diseases still run rampant in North Korea, and they lack a centralized health system, which shaves 12 years off their lifespans compared to South Koreans.

Second, food culture varies between the two countries. In South Korea, food is very flavorful, and many people eat Westernized foods on a daily basis. Fast food restaurants, like McDonalds and KFC, can be easily found in South Korean cities, and people indulge in coffee drinks. North Korea’s cuisine is more bland, and contains less meat. The most stark difference is that Western companies like McDonalds are absent from North Korea because of the country’s isolation.

Third, the differences in fashion and beauty standards between the two countries have become very distinct. From seeing pictures of ordinary citizens walking the streets, these differences are obvious, and by watching videos like 100 Years of Beauty - Korea, the viewer can obtain an even clearer picture. For example, women in South Korea love a natural or cute make up design, while North Korean women love dramatic make up.

Fourth, because of North Korean isolationism and dictator propaganda, the mindsets of the two countries are very different. In North Korea, Americans are seen as extremely evil. Young children are taught to play games where they attack dummies of American soldiers. As a strong contrast, South Korea’s military works very closely with US troops stationed there. All South Korean students have to learn English, and many South Korean citizens are very interested in foreign culture. Kpop music has become popular all over the world, and many South Korean people are proud to be sharing that as part of their culture.

Throughout my research, I have found that the amount of differences between these two countries are too numerous to count, and to name in my writing. However, the most amazing difference, and simultaneously the most dividing one, is the separation of the Korean languages. To me, as someone who is a foreign language student, and someone who is fascinated by linguistics, this is the most interesting difference. Because of every difference that I have previously listed, and many I have not, the two Korean languages have drifted apart. These languages have separated to the point where a North Korean defector cannot recognize half of the words used in daily South Korean conversations. This is partly because of the strong Korean nationalism in the North, which has made their Korean remain more faithful to the “original.” As a contrast, the Korean language of the South has adopted countless new words. The South Korean modernization and global culture has created many words adopted from other languages, namely English. Also, because of advancements in the South, many technologies are used daily that are non-existent in the North. Finally, because of government-created changes to the South Korean language, in order to make it more simple to say and spell, many words have been altered. Many of these changes are extremely difficult to explain to someone who does not study or know Korean, but I have included a video playlist below that may help.

Through my collage, I attempted to illustrate these differences, and through my explanation I attempted to highlight them. The separation between North and South Korea has created so many changes and barriers between the two countries culturally, many of which can be seen just by seeing pictures. A book titled Korea-Korea by German photographer Dieter Leistner was published with that exact intent. Leistner took photographs of similar locations in Seoul and Pyongyang and published them, highlighting the similarities with the separation of Germany into East and West. Though this book was the one reference I could not use in my collage and my project, it was the book that propelled me to think more about the North and South. This entire project fostered a desire in me to see the two Koreas reunited. I have seen countless reunion videos between families who were separated after the armistice, and each one never fails to tug at my heart. I have also heard countless stories from North Korean defectors, each one convincing me that a majority of what happens in the North is inhumane. Because of this, in my collage I placed a picture of North Korean gymnast Hong Un Jong and South Korean gymnast Lee Eun-ju in the center. Their selfie blew up social media and news all over the world because of their willingness to interact with each other. I hope that someday the two countries will no longer be as different as they currently are. Though reunification would come with many difficulties, in the end it would be best so that the Korean people can be reunited. In the end, I made this project with the hope that my fellow students will see it, read my words, and become more educated on North and South Korea.

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