Uganda- Korea youth in a cultural exchange at the Nile

Campers savour sumptuous Korean meals. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • A break from school or work routine and seeing the world outside familiar gates is always a breath of fresh air. About 19 students were treated to a Korea-Uganda cultural exchange camp to mark 60 years of diplomatic relationship. 

Kenneth Vincent Nsubuga was among the 19 students who enjoyed the Korea-Uganda Culture Exchange Camp that capped the celebrations of 60 years of diplomatic relationship between Uganda and the Republic of Korea.

Nusbuga, a Year-Nine student at Hillside High International School, Bunamwaya, thinks he was chosen because of his leadership skills, active participation in extracurricular activities and experience in volunteer work.

His schoolmates Priyanka Margaret Nangobi, Melissa Khangu and twin sister Vanessa Khalondi were selected by their Korean taekwondo instructor for their active participation in the taekwondo class.

“We were very consistent in our training and that gained us the recognition of our taekwondo teacher. Perhaps that is why we were chosen for the camp,” Nangobi, the 18-year old Year-12 student told Saturday Monitor.  

Nsubuga was excited and curious. “I had never been to another country and the opportunity to interact with people from different cultures was thrilling.”

He expected to learn new things, make new friends and have fun while exploring Uganda’s beautiful scenery and culture. “I also hoped to gain some insights into the challenges facing young people around the world and how to overcome them,” Nsubuga said.

Nangobi, on the other hand, was not sure what to expect. “At first, I thought it was solely a taekwondo training camp, but our taekwondo teacher clarified that it would be more of a cultural interaction between Ugandans and Koreans.”

Khangu was excited to interact with Korean culture at a deeper level and also share her bit of Uganda’s diverse cultures.

Her sister Khalondi started fantasising about wearing hanboks—popular Korean dresses—and eating Korean food, things she already knew about. Even then, surprises did not stop coming.

Relishing every moment
Nsubuga found Korean food very delicious. He enjoyed traditional dances, playing several games and visiting recreational sites. Khangu called it “a spectacular experience.”

All participants relished every moment at the Haven River Eco Lodge. “Our residence was comfortable with such beautiful sceneries and calm environments away from the city centre, “ Khangu said.

Kim Se Woon, one of the nine Korean participants, summed it this way. “The lodge was the most beautiful site by far.” Situated on the banks of the Nile, it gave the campers a view of the rising sun striking the Nile waters, every morning.

They enjoyed boat rides on the Nile, quad biking, swimming, and pool. They played Korean games, choreographed k-pop songs and won prizes.

“We were split into five groups,” Khangu recalls. “I led mine to second position in dance and sports competitions.” On the last night of the camp, the campers enjoyed a bonfire by the river view.  

A lovely break from school routine and seeing the world outside the familiar gates was a breath of fresh air for Nangobi. She found the interactions during the four-day vacation very insightful, which left a huge imprint in her mind. “The Korean people were so friendly to us and included us in everything.”

It had been long since Khalondi took a field trip and reaching the edge of Lake Victoria was very refreshing. She also learnt more about the Korean culture and found Korean people very organised.

Some of the outstanding group performers won awards and certificates. PHOTO/COURTSEY 

“As a student of Economics, I was deeply intrigued by the diplomatic talks in which we were told about South Korea’s intentions with not only Uganda, but Africa as a whole.”

Her sister Khangu was equally impressed by the Uganda-Korea diplomatic ties and the different organisations such as the Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica) and the Korea-Africa Foundation, which foster development. 

“They also told us about the opportunities for studying and later working in South Korea. I am now considering a career in international relations,” said Khangu, who added new friends to her networks.

Likewise Nangobi, who now has a broader perspective of the world, has added South Korea to the list of countries she would like to visit for tourism, education and employment. Nsubuga wants to join any Korean agency or work in the Korean embassy.

Bred in Uganda, Se Woon, 17, did not share other Koreans’ misconceptions about Africans being pitiable people. “I hope those who attended the camp will start viewing Ugandans as equals and respectable,” the Aga Khan High School student said.  “I would like to share the love I have received from Uganda.”

Kim Yeonyi, of Heritage International School, Grade 11, mostly enjoyed dancing with friends and introducing Korean K-pop culture to Ugandan friends. She thinks learning each other’s cultures will strengthen Uganda-Korea bilateral relations.

Next time
Campers could not have enough. Khalondi wished it lasted at least a week for them to bond more. Nsubuga loved quad biking, but for next year’s camp, he would prefer cycling or hoverboarding be added on to the menu. 

Nangobi would like a little more of Korean foods and habits such as using chopsticks. But mostly, “I wish we knew the basics of each other’s language. This will improve the way we relate with each other.”

Besides, most Ugandan participants might have learnt more about Korean culture than the Koreans learnt about Ugandan culture. Next time, they wish it were a two sided affair. 

Koreans were in charge of the camp. “I liked it that they let us enjoy the camp without intervening, quite different from the way Ugandan camps are manned,” Khangu said.

Seunghee Yi, the officer in-charge of cultural and corporate affairs at the Korean embassy in Uganda, affirmed that he would consider these suggestions for next year’s event.