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YISS Internationalisation Programme to South Korea 2019

On 22 May 2019, a group of 23 students and 3 staff from Yusof Ishak Secondary went on a 9-day cultural immersion trip to Korea. Upon arriving in Korea, the group made its way to Suncheon where our twinning school, Suncheon Maesan Middle School (SMMS), is located. Along the way, the group made a stop at the Pyeongtaek Port to learn about one of the busiest ports in South Korea.

The following day, the group, together with their SMMS buddies, visited the famous Suncheon Bay Wetland Reserve to admire its beauty and tranquillity. The group spent the rest of the day at their respective buddies' homes for a homestay experience to fully immerse in the local community.

On 24 May, Yusoffians experienced school life in SMMS. They attended a Science lesson where they assembled a water rocket and a cooking class where they prepared patbingsu (a Korean dessert similar to our Ice Kachang!), among other interesting lessons. Towards the end of the day, our Yusoffians also helped the SMMS students clean their school compound as part of the school’s character development programme to develop students into model citizens.

The following morning, our Yusoffians and their buddies visited the Suncheon Confucius School and learnt about the Korean traditional tea ceremony as well as the Korean traditional bowing ceremony. Our Yussoffians also had the opportunity to wear the beautiful Hanbok (the Korean traditional costume)!  For the rest of the weekend, our Yusoffians were taken to various attractions around Suncheon by their gracious host families. They had so much fun that by the last day of the exchange, most of our Yusoffians could not bear to leave Suncheon!

After bidding farewell to their SMMS buddies, the group then proceeded to Seoul to visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. Our local guide shared his family's story about the Korean War, and our students learnt that the war was a tragedy which tore apart countless families. It was a solemn but highly educational morning which elicited deep reflections from our students. Two poems written by Yussofians are shared below.

Apart from the DMZ, the group also visited other popular sights such the Cheonggyecheon Stream, Gwangjang Market, Myeongdong, Gyeongbokgung and Lotte World.

During this unforgettable trip, Yusoffians experienced truly warm hospitality from the Korean hosts, and were also exposed to a wealth of cultural and communal experiences about Korea!

Poem by Tiara (2/2)

The coldness of the hearts of the soldiers still lingers in the dark, foreign tunnel.

I imagine the sounds from the cold War, screams of pain and whimpers of fear.

Life at risk and death always returning, the people weren't at fault but they were forced to face tragedy.

The bullets and fires may have ended, but the agonizing past will forever linger.

Distrust and betrayal will never be forgotten,

And the history of South Korea will stay for eternity.

Poem by Wenxuan (2/1)

Families split

Cries ignored

The peninsula of a yin yang of red and blue

There it goes

Parallel lines, blue and white

Dash dash dash

Dash dot dot dash

Dot dot dash dot dot

Dash dash dash, split

The 38th parallel that separates

Who is to blame?

North Korea for its submission to a ruler

Its conquering not unlike that of Hitler's

Or South Korea for not being on the offensive? But how are they to be blamed, if they tried and tried and tried and failed?

Fast forward a few generations

Children feeling their ancestors' pain

The heartbreak that bleeds across ages of all kind

A family bond that might never be healed

This land of divided countries

Liberty and repression

Safety and constant aggression

A war never declared over

Centuries come and civilians live in fear of another wave

Sweeping away their families

Leaving debris of collateral heartbreak

So why don't you take a little pity walk and learn more?

Down the tunnel that should not have been

Till the border that the South respect but the North exploit

So save them from this needless fear,

A pair of signatures on a piece of paper

Conditions agreed fairly,

Save them and end this Fairly

Our first group photo at SMMS!

A visit to the Suncheon Bay Wetland Reserve together with our SMMS buddies

Admiring nature at Suncheon Bay Wetland Reserve

Experiencing school life as a student of SMMS

Building our water rocket together!

Time to launch the rocket!

Our Yusoffians dressed in Hanbok and learning about Korean cultural practices!

Yusoffians and their buddies spending a fun weekend at the aquarium

A final photo with our SMMS buddies

An enriching tour of the DMZ!

Enjoying bibimbap, one of Korea’s prominent dishes, for lunch!

A group photo at Gyeongbokgung