What’s the secret to South Koreans’ generally high academic performance?
I think it’s all about the social atmosphere here in Korea. The importance of a college degree in getting a job in Korea is much greater than in any other country. The fever or passion for higher education among parents as well as students is growing bigger and bigger, too, so every student goes to college. Also, the private institute industry is growing larger as more and more students go to after-school classes to improve their English and math.
What are your activities or hobbies when you’re not in school?
Throughout high school, I only focused on my Korean SAT, which is equivalent to the SAT in the U.S. Last year was my first year in college, and I tried to spend more time for myself. I worked at a part-time job and I drew a lot of pictures -- things I was not able to do in the past. My friends and I also like to go to art exhibitions and performances, like plays and musicals.
What would you tell North Korean youth your age about South Korean
kids? It’s hard to compare, but if you
had to, in South Korea there is a clear distinctive
difference between ages 19 and 20, because that’s
the year you go to college generally speaking. So when
young people turn 20, they get to enjoy more freedom,
but I don’t think that is the case in North Korea,
so I would tell them about those freedoms.
Do you think North and South Korea should become one country?
Up until high school I thought that reunification
was necessary. We learned that we are one nation. We
share the same roots. So that’s why we have to
have unification. But now I’m not so sure. The
incidents last year (the
sinking of the South Korean Navy ship Cheonan and
the North Korean shelling of Yeonpyeong
Island) changed my mind. These days I feel a growing
sense of difference between the North and South. And
when I talk to my friends, we talk about how different
we are and often our negative impressions of North Korea.
What do you think about the U.S.?
One day I wish to go there. I have this sort of fantasy about the United States. I grew up watching “The Simpsons”. They have large houses and gardens, which we don’t have in South Korea. You don’t see that kind of neighborhood in South Korea, where everything is packed and crowded. So American culture is quite fresh and different to me.