“Inclusion and Inclusiveness: Shared Vision of Youth for Local, National and Global Village” – this was the slogan of the 30th International Youth Forum, which was held from the 16th to the 23rd of July in Seoul. The host of the Forum was The National Council of Youth Organizations in Korea with the cooperation of the Korean Educational Psychology Association, under the sponsorship of The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family of the Republic of Korea, The World Assembly of Youth, and the Asian Youth Council. The significant number of 179 young people from 54 countries around the world participated in the Forum after successfully passing the application and the selection processes.
Bulgaria was represented by one of the most numerous delegations – it included Nadezhda Ilieva, Radoslav Georgiev, Yanislava Alexandrova, Nikolay Nikolov and Lyuboslava Hristova.
The participants from around the globe gathered in Seoul to share their knowledge, exchange ideas and good examples and expand their horizons in regard to the subject of social inclusion and inclusiveness, which concerns a wide range of social and political issues in contemporary societies. On the one hand, it is related to people with disabilities and the ways in which they are treated in society, and the access they are offered (or denied) to public services, leading roles and active participation. On the other hand, it brings to the surface the problem of various types of minorities and the manner in which they are represented in media, government and in social mythologies – a problem which leads to the spheres of multiculturalism, nationalism and migration. Yet, it could be understood in the broadest sense as how one or one’s society treats the Others – everyone who is born “different” or dares to choose a different lifestyle.
The Forum focused our attention on the importance of these issues in the context of the contemporary global world and stressed the crucial necessity of an active role of each of the members of the global community. The program offered a series of lectures by leading professors from various Korean universities, divided into three subcategories: “Education and Youth Activities”, “Roles and Assignments of the Media” and “Exploring the Universal Design for Inclusion”.
After the lectures all participants were assigned to one of 9 teams, each consisting of 20 members, who had to work together during daily discussion sessions in order to share information about our respective countries, as well as the strategies to address the social issues in them, and to exchange ideas about the values which we believe should unite and guide us in dealing with the problems of exclusion. The main purpose of these activities was to identify the issues, analyze them and suggest a solution and an action plan for implementing this solution. Finally, all results were gathered, summarized and presented in front of all the participants and guests of the Forum.
Besides the academic activities, the abundant program of the Forum offered various events, aimed at encouraging the intercultural communication and collaboration. Thus during the evening of the “Global Village” event each participant had to present their culture through national attires, traditional cuisine, popular games and famous landmarks. However, this presentation was planned in a manner that not simply represented each different country as a separated cultural phenomenon, but provided an opportunity for cultural mixture and cross-cultural teamwork. This is why we were separated into small teams of 5 members, all representatives of different countries, and we had to collaborate and help each other in order to present our cultures together in the best possible way. In the colorful, diverse and festive atmosphere of the evening it was unavoidable for one to feel as a true global citizen.
And last but not least, all these events were held in the welcoming environment of the Korean hospitality and we were all eager to explore Korea as much as possible! The organizers had planned a whole day of the program dedicated to visiting the most symbolic tourist places of Seoul, such as the N Seoul Tower, The National Museum of Korea and Changdeok Palace.
Moreover, each discussion group was provided with the opportunity to explore one of the leading Seoul centers in the sphere of inclusion and inclusiveness, such as the Universal Design Center in Pyeongtaek, or the creative center “Seoul CoLab for 7 Generations”, officially known as Seoul Eunpyeong Youth Future Career Center, where we participated in a traditional Brazilian drums lesson or a parkour class; or the Seoul Youth Media Center SSRONET, preferred by a lot of celebrities among whom is Si Won from Super Junior, where we learned how to take a professional photo session.
Despite that, we used every free hour we had at the end of the day, no matter how exhausted we were after the busy schedule, to spread through the arteries of the city subway, lured by the small steep streets of Myeongdong, showered in lights at night, and by the immersive atmosphere of Hongdae street performances, enchanted by the karaoke clubs and the street bars, filled with soju with different flavors (traditional Korean alcohol beverage similar to rakia or vodka), by the cafes offering all kinds of delicious bingsu (Korean shaved ice dessert with red beans paste), or simply tempted to roam around the beautiful alleys and bridges around the Han River.
Find out more about all these experiences in the next articles!