Young Professionals and Students from the U.S. and Korea Engage in Cross-Cultural Exchange

Korean delegation meets with local Korean-American Community Leaders in Chicago
Korean delegation meets with local Korean-American Community Leaders in Chicago

On July 7, 2016, 20 young professionals and students from the Republic of Korea and the United States arrived in Washington, DC for the 2016 iteration of the U.S. Congress – Republic of Korea National Assembly Exchange Program. For nearly 20 years, Meridian has had the privilege of implementing this unique program, funded by the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and jointly sponsored by the U.S. Congress and Republic of Korea National Assembly, which brings together young people from the U.S. and Korea for a memorable and educational opportunity.

During the first week of the program in Washington, DC, the delegates met with government officials from the Department of State, as well as Secretaries of Economy, Congressional Affairs, and Korean Government from the Embassy of the Republic of Korea. The delegation also met with a number of experts on U.S. - Korean relations, including Dr. Victor Cha from CSIS, Mr. Bruce Klingner from the Heritage Foundation, and a panel from the Korea Economic Institute to discuss current economic, political, and security aspects of the bilateral relationship. Korean delegates also had the opportunity to join their American counterparts on Capitol Hill for a one-day internship experience in ten separate congressional representatives’ offices.

The Korean delegation remained in the U.S. following the Washington, DC portion of the program and continued their exchange in Little Rock, Arkansas and Chicago, Illinois. In Little Rock, the delegation met with state legislature representatives, civil rights activists, and technology innovation and entrepreneurship development leaders. They also enjoyed visits to local cultural sites, such as Little Rock Central High School, and an opportunity to interact with the local homeless community. The Chicago portion of the program, sponsored by the office of Senator Mark Kirk, gave the delegation a firsthand look into the U.S. military system with a visit to Naval Station Great Lakes. The Korean delegates were also able to meet with members of Senator Kirk’s staff, participate in a roundtable with local Korean-American community leaders, and tour cultural facilities. To conclude the U.S. portion of the program, the Korean delegation spent three days in homestays with local families in Geneseo, Illinois.

Following the Washington portion of the program, the American delegation departed for Korea. During their time in Seoul, the delegates had the opportunity to attend briefings at the National Assembly, Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), and the Korea National Diplomatic Academy; visit varied sites, such as Gyeongbokgung Palace and the War Memorial of Korea; and learn about Korean culture firsthand through homestays with local families. The delegates also learned about resettlement of North Korean refugees while visiting Hanawon, a resettlement and support center, and Hangyeore Middle & High School, established specifically for young North Korean refugees. The delegation also visited the coastal city of Busan, where they met with Mayor Suh Byung-soo and visited Beomeosa Temple and Busan Tower.

The Korean and American delegates reunited in Seoul this past weekend. With two and a half weeks of exchange already under their belts, they discussed the impact and experiences of both the U.S. and Korea portions of the program with each other and visited the DMZ to get a firsthand look at current relations between South and North Korea and the future of that relationship. The program closed on Saturday with a reflection on experiences over the past three weeks of the program.


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