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HOBY, Leading in Seoul
Written by Rebecca Kim | Published. 2020.07.18 14:46 | Count : 271
[Photo of author leading a group icebreaker. Photo courtesy of Hoby Korea]

The 2020 HOBY Leadership Seminar in Seoul was held at COEX in preparation for the World Leadership Conference (WLC) later in July. The seminar was sponsored by the Seoul Metropolitan Government for the first time this year. I was fortunate enough to be offered a chance to serve as a counselor for this two day conference. After my experience as an ambassador in the 2018 HOBY World Leadership Conference in Chicago, I was thrilled to be able to re-engage in the HOBY experience. Working with three other counselors, I aimed to bring the excitement and motivation that the 2018 WLC inspired in me to the new group of 20 ambassadors.

Upon starting the conference, I found many unexpected difficulties in my role as a counselor: one of which were the notable cultural differences between the participants in WLC and this Korean leadership seminar. In WLC 2018, I remember the excitement of joining students screaming out cheers which we tried to bring to this seminar as well. However, in the Korean HOBY Leadership Seminar, it was a little difficult in getting students to join cheers and active group activities. Some of the differences could definitely be attributed to masks and short duration of the conference due to COVID-19 which prevented the students from forming closer relationships. Another difference could be the number of participants. In my own experience at WLC, I remember presenting about Korean history in front of a group of over 400 students and feeling a sense of acceptance and pride when the students clapped for the different milestones in Korean history. A smaller group of 20 students is significantly less able to create a sense of a huge shared community. 

We then adjusted our plans to engage in more familiar group games for Koreans such as 'I am Ground' or 'Mafia' which ambassadors were able to more actively participate in. Although I feel that we were not able to create the same friendly and welcoming atmosphere for the ambassadors which allowed students to open up to each other in WLC, we were able to create some friendships by the end of the conference. I could also see the ambassadors being more assertive in group discussions and presentations as time went by. 

Although I attended this conference as a counselor, I also engaged as an ambassador and experienced an epiphany on how I could be a leader in my society. The main question we addressed in this conference was: what exactly is leadership? We've heard countless speeches on what it means to be a leader, but what exactly should we do to be a leader? Through this leadership seminar, we explored the ways we could be a leader in the world and in our closer communities in Korea. 

Our first speaker, Professor Emmanuel Pastreich- the President of the Asia Institute based in Washington D.C., Seoul, Tokyo, and Hanoi- defined leadership as the willingness to go in the opposite direction from the herd. This was a completely new illustration of leadership as I had originally pictured leadership as the spearhead of the herd, not the lone person facing the other direction. He discussed the need to look at the problems that the world is facing, such as rapid technological development and climate change, as well as the potential Korea has to become a global leader. As leaders in the new generation, he encouraged students to "cultivate the bravery to go up to people and tell them the truth and demand that they change what they do." 

Focusing on our closer community, Director Kim Min Cheol of the Center for Good Budget talked to us about how we can specifically make a difference within our community. The first step was to identify a problem in our society: no matter how small it seems. For instance, Director Kim gave us an example of a project which identified that much of the elderly population gathering cardboard in Korea walk along the road in the early morning when it is dark and increases the risk of getting hit by cars. The simple but helpful solution was to provide them with headlamps which would allow them to be spotted more easily by cars. Using mind maps, students talked for two hours in groups about the difficulties or inconveniences we faced or saw happening in our daily lives. As the ambassadors discussed in my group, I was surprised to find so many societal concerns that I had never noticed before. My group members discussed the inequalities in opportunities given by the school due to class rank or the differences in available educational facilities according to the location of the school. As an international student, I had previously not been aware of these circumstances faced by Korean high school students. Other students discussed inconveniences due to the location of their houses near a highway or environmental concerns such as air pollution. The next step of the activity was to identify how we could take steps to solve the problem and we were given an opportunity to put together a proposal to the Seoul Center for Good Budget. 

[Photo of counselors planning a group activity. Photo courtesy of Hoby Korea]

Through this conference, I grew as a leader counseling different small groups and leading group activities while also learning to be flexible to circumstances and accommodate the ambassadors' needs. On the other hand, I also grew alongside ambassadors as my view of the closer community around me expanded. What I've realized through this conference was that leadership requires deep observation and the ability to think of bold solutions outside the box: traits that are sometimes overshadowed by louder and more confident people which society commonly identifies as 'leaders.' It led me to reconsider my stance towards leadership and increased my knowledge of the world around me. Moving forward from the conference, I hope that we will be able to always be on the lookout for ways we could help the world to become leaders of the future generation.


Rebecca Kim
Junior (Grade 11)
Seoul Foreign School

Rebecca Kim  student_reporter@dherald.com

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