日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

【December 2020 No.408】Korea-Japan Youth Programs and COVID-19 Pandemic


Annyeong-haseyo!  (A Korean greeting meaning How are you or Hello.)

I am a mission coworker sent by the Kyodan to the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK). I came to Seoul in February 2015 and currently work at the PROK headquarters and in one of its congregations, Seoul Jeil Church (Seoul First Church).

I have particularly focused on Korea-Japan exchange programs for teenagers and young adults. We hold these exchange programs at the denominational level, the district level and the local church level. However, all these programs for this year had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Korea-Japan Joint Summer Retreat for Teens, which is co-hosted by the PROK Seoul Presbytery and the Kyodan’s North Subdistrict of Tokyo District was postponed, which is especially regrettable because this retreat draws many repeat attendees. Once teens participate, they say, “I definitely want to attend again next year!” But if you are in your first year of high school, and if it’s your first time to participate in the program, you only have two more opportunities. Moreover, the “exam war” for entering university, which is so severe in both South Korea and Japan, often makes it impossible for high school seniors to join the program. So one year is very important for teenagers. That is why this retreat is held annually, even though we had discussed several times whether we should have this program only once in two years due to budget restrictions. It is very disappointing that we had to cancel it due to COVID-19.

However, even in this situation, the young adults who participated in an exchange program last summer are planning to hold a reunion, using ZOOM. In both Japan and South Korea, college students were unable to attend classes in their regular school buildings this year because of COVID-19, and they often took classes online. Whether that experience should be thought of as “unfortunate” or “fortunate,” it seems to be no problem for them to meet online, but it is difficult to create the same "atmosphere" as when meeting face-to-face and to become friends through thinking together about the history between Japan and Korea, eating together, and playing cards and other games together at night. But both teenagers and young adults have been using technology to communicate with each other even during face-to-face programs. Although most of them do not speak their friends’ languages, they tried to communicate with each other by using Google or LINE translator. I am always moved by how earnestly they try to understand their friends and explain their own feelings at a deep level. Now they are trying to do what they can during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it encourages me a lot.

From last year, it has been said repeatedly since last year that the relationship between South Korea and Japan is at its worst since Fifteen Years War. That is why I support young people who really want to see the friends they met last year. Since I believe that this is a way I can help to create peace, I want to keep up my efforts.

by Nagao Yuki, Mission Co-woker from Kyodan to PROK   Seoul, South Korea

アンニョンハセヨ?基督教長老会(PROK)に派遣されている長尾有起です。私は2015年2月からソウルに派遣され、現在は PROKの総会(事務局本部)と、PROK所属のソウル第一教会での奉仕を中心に活動しています。




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