"Those who lived it, can't explain it. Those who didn't, will never understand it," said our section A assistant Nikita. I agree; what she said is mostly true. Thus this writing would be more of a ventilation of overwhelming emotion I felt at the camp rather than a logical explanation.
I’ll have to begin my story from the very day I was announce to be the leader of Korean ambassadors for 2009 World Leadership Congress. On February 13, I was at school, having a typical school day. And around three o’clock (I am not sure about the specific time, I only know that it was during IR time which is between 3 to 5 pm), I got a phone call from a friend who was using Internet in the dorm. He said he was chosen to be a Korean ambassador for the camp, and I was, too, and as the leader.
As soon as I knew this, I opened an online cafe to contact with all the ambassadors and prepare for the World Leadership Congress. I arranged meetings with Korean ambassadors and discussed about the preparation. I thought all ambassadors should take part in something because that is the HOBY SPIRIT. After the first meeting, we divided into Tae Kwon Do (Korean martial art), a Korean pop dance, and a traditional play. I nominated the team leader for dance and play group, and I myself arranged Tae Kwon Do. Many of us practiced so hard, especially JK and Joong Hyun An (I must mention their names because they gave up their whole vacation preparing for WLC. Luv u guys!). We gradually became close to each other through practice. Also, we gathered and stayed a night together and had a lot of fun playing variety of games. By the day of departure, we were all friends.
As soon as I got to Washington DC, I had to participate in all kinds of activities without having a chance to recover from my jetlag. We had to gather by groups divided by the month of birthday. It was difficult for me to introduce myself to people I have never seen. It was especially difficult because English my mother tongue, and I was afraid they may not understand my pronunciation or accent. However, all the other ambassadors seemed to have no difficulty at all. They talked to each other as if they have been friends for long time with huge smiles and overwhelming excitement. Only later did I learn that this was a part of HOBY Spirit that everyone was talking about.
When most of the ambassadors came, we had Kool-Aid Challenge, the first of two group games. We divided into random groups, and had to make profit by making Kool-Aid using the resources we were given (cups, water, Kool-Aid package, and sugar). Our group soon realized the facilitators at the Kool-Aid stand, where we sold our finished Kool-Aid, did not taste the Kool-Aid before buying it. So we used as small amount of Kool-Aid and sugar as possible. After the Kool-Aid Challenge, we actually had time to discuss what we did. We had fruitful time pointing out how overwhelming competition at the world market made the producers use dishonest means in order to maximize the profit and suggesting regulation or qualification as possible solution. In our local seminar, games were fun, but it was sometimes difficult to realize what I was supposed learn by them. However in WLC, we had discussion after every activity which fostered me think more about the game and apply what I learned to the world. In the other game, called “Ice Cream Game”, we discussed how there were still extreme discriminations around the world, and everyone agreed that we must make changes to eliminate them. It was great to see even Caucasian ambassadors, who assumably do not receive as much discrimination as Asians or black people, stress that we should all unite to fight discriminations.
Another great part of WLC was group time. At the first group time, I met ten people (Percy arrived a day late because his flight was delayed) I would stay truly intimate for the rest of my life. We paired up and introduced each other. Afterward, everyone had to introduce his or her partner to the group. Everyone paid their full attention to the speaker and memorized nearly every little detail; they had alacrity to become friends. As days passed, we became one big family. Every night, we reflected on events that happened during the day and hugged each other good night before going back to the room to sleep. Everyone was full of love and eager to spread it to each other. We also talked about our dreams and gave advice about specific ways to reach the goals. Different advice from different perspectives helped me plan more prudently for the future. For example, American ambassadors were more aware of the power the youth had in the community. They told me how I can spot the problems in my community and make an organization to lead a change. In Korea, there is still a strong notion that young adults are less mature, so it is difficult for them to have much influence in the community matter. However, after listening to their advice, I felt that someone has to change this social atmosphere; itself would be a great change I can start, too.
There were several panels, too, by great professors from all around the country. Unfortunately, due to terrible jet lag, I dozed many of them. However, I did feel strong motivation to lead changes in the world. Panels about leadership were extraordinary; I could feel that they were people who knew and experienced leadership. They did not vaguely list the reasons that today’s world needed leaders. They provided specific cases as examples, and told us how we can gradually take steps to make a change. In the World Bank, I was happy to realize that there was an organization that was working to eliminate the poverty instead of accumulating its own profit. This organization did not only generate fund through donation but also gave up most of their own benefit to help the poor countries again. However, I was disappointed to hear that because it was an organization operated by membership system, non-member nations could not receive aid. North Korea, South Korea’s closest neighbor, was not a member and thus was completely excluded from the list of beneficiaries. I would never agree that North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and destruction of peace can be overlooked, yet people suffering in desperate destitution must be saved. They are no criminals; rather, they are victims. It is unfair for the government to choose whether its people are helped or not.
What surprised me during the panel session were not just the panelists, but also other ambassadors. First of all, every single person was on time. In Korea, and probably in many other countries, being about a minute late is nothing to feel guilty about. It’s just a minute. However, they never think that they can go to the meeting place a minute early; after all, it’s just a minute. People do not realize that being late itself is already wrong because the unconscious intention behind it is to save their own time at the cost of others, which is absolutely selfish In direct contrary to this unfortunate trend, most of the WLC ambassadors arrived at the place either early or on time. Some might have been late, but they were not noticeable because it was obvious that most of the seats were filled. Not only were they all on time, they showed their earnest respect to every panelist regardless of the topic. In almost every other lecture I have attended, there were some students who would whisper to the friends next to them how funny or weird the lecturer is; they think the lecturer won’t know because they are whispering. The speaker, standing at the front, might not be able to hear them, but he or she can definitely see them whispering and giggling. It seemed that everyone WLC, possibly because they themselves were leaders and speakers in their own schools and communities, knew how disrespectful that is and stayed still in their seats until the panel was over. Discussions that followed never had anything to do with the speakers tie or accent, either. They not only let the panelists feel the respect but actually had respect in their hearts.
The same respect was shown toward ambassadors involved in international presentations or talent shows. The talent show in Korean local seminar was all about pop dancing or rock band because they were the only ones that people liked. However, in WLC, every talent was wonderful and fantastic. Everyone showed different talents in various areas, and obviously, it was impossible for every performance to suit everyone’s taste. Nevertheless, there was standing ovation for every person who took time to prepare it and had courage to show it in front of four hundred peers. I myself was the panelist for international panel representing Korea, and one of the Tae Kwon Do performers for international presentation. I would have been extremely nervous in front of that many people of my age, but not for this one because I knew that no one would laugh at me for tiny irrelevant details. Making someone like me stand in front of public without fear was a part of unbelievable power of respect.
As one of the cheers say, all the ambassadors were “alive, awake, alert, and enthusiastic.” We would cheer whenever and wherever as long as it is not disrespectful. Everyone was full of energy. Not only physically active, they were active member of their communities, too. They were spotting problems and making changes. They make organizations they thought were necessary without delay, and gather members and donations. Discussions I had with these ambassadors inspired me to get involved in community matters regardless of the difficulty I will face due to authoritative Korean culture.
After all these experience, I finally realized the true nature of HOBY Spirit. In two words, although it is much more complicated, it is “love” and “respect”. Each of the ambassadors I met knew he or she was different from others. Being peculiar was no shame; it was pride. They assumed their peculiarity to be respected and ignored prejudiced comments. At the same time, they distinguished what is tolerable and what is not. They would never claim it their right to harm others in any way.
They respected others as much as, if not more, they did themselves. Even the most peculiar cultures or customs received a warm. During the week everyone respected the panelists by being attentive and quite, facilitators and other ambassadors by being on the right place on right time, and everyone else who made WLC possible by sincerely participating in every activity with “integrity and dignity”, as our lovely Chorus Director Paul stressed throughout the week.
What is a “good” leader? Well, that is exactly what I learned during one week of WLC; one who has the true HOBY Spirit is the “good” leader. Everyone in World Leadership Congress was a perfect example of good leader. All the facilitators sacrificed their priceless vacation to volunteer in WLC to spread HOBY Spirit. All the ambassadors came from all over the world with eagerness to change their communities and the world. Every HOBY leader I met had courage to “fight for the right without question or pause,” and to do so with the warm heart overwhelmed with love. After all, HOBY leaders are the best.