Peace, Love and Understanding at the 50th IJK

One young esperantist's experiences at the 1994 (Internacia Junulara Kongreso) International Youth Congress

Kiel vi ja scias, cxi-somere okazis la 50a IJK en Cxonano, Sudkorejo. Por veteranoj de la IJK, gxi jam estas longe atendata evento. Tamen, kiel la unua Esperanta renkontigxo por juna usonano, la cxi-jara IJK cxiam restos iom pli speciala.

Some people have asked me for my thoughts on the 50th Internacia Junulara Kongreso. All I can say is that the IJK was far too short. In my opinion, closer to two weeks would be necessary.

The IJK took place at the Dan Kook University in the city of Ch'onan, approximately sixty-five miles south of Seoul. The university is beside a beautiful lake, on the outskirts of the city.

For one week, the university became a part of Esperantujo, a true "Global Village". Nepalese and Chinese, French and Brazilians, all chatting, walking, and interacting, recreated the atmosphere of the 1960's in the United States, "Peace, Love, and Understanding".

A typical day at the IJK started at nine o'clock, with a Korean breakfast of rice, soup, seaweed, fish and kimchi, which is cabbage fermented with red chili pepper and is quite spicy. One ate kimchi and rice at every meal. I never quite got used to kimchi, but I did get accustomed to the rice at every meal and miss it somewhat now.

After breakfast, there were either lectures or activities to participate in, or excursions to take part in. I went to lectures on the Japanese religion Oomoto, the Americanization and commercialization of the world culture, and a course on Korean calligraphy and the Korean language, which is very difficult; it belongs to the same linguistic family as Hungarian and Finnish.

On the fifth day, Wednesday, I walked with a group of others some three miles to a Buddhist monastery where there was a giant bronze statue of the Buddha, the largest in southeastern Korea. The Buddha had been built to express the desire of a unified Korean peninsula, which was the wish of all the Koreans I met.

At the Buddha, our group's leader, a Buddhist, led us in a Buddhist prayer. We lit three sticks of incense, circled the statue thrice, chanting Hamulamigul and then prostrated ourselves before the statue three times, each time touching our foreheads to the Earth. Beside the statue there was a spring, from which we all took a drink of water.

Another day we traveled to a recreated Korean folk village where the lives of Korean peasants and nobility were reenacted in traditionally built structures. Afterwards we traveled to the brewery of the Oriental Beer Company. The tour was fairly dry, the best part being in a room where it was only 45, a nice change after the 100 weather outside.

In the evenings, there was music, dancing and singing. People from various nations taught everyone traditional songs or dances. There was a French folk dance, a samba from Brazil, a "circle dance" from Ghana and various songs translated into Esperanto from German, Danish and British English.

This singing and dancing lasted until midnight, when the crazy "Discotheque" opened in the basement of one of the buildings. I stayed there, chatting and snacking on french fries and an omelette-like egg dish. A few danced to the very loud Korean Rock. I usually stayed there until around 3 AM, but I knew some people who didn't sleep at all.

Sadly, I had to leave the IJK a day early in order to purchase a plane ticket out of Korea. I'd stayed the exact limit for a visaless Americans. In all, the IJK was a fantastic experience and has strengthened my belief in Esperanto and my desire to attend the IJK '95 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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Written by Daniel Cuthbert
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