“Thank you so much for organising this trip and giving us the opportunity to climb the wall. We have so much stress and all we see everyday in Korea is roads and buildings. I did not know that there was such a fun and beautiful place in Korea.”
This is what Edwin, one of the refugee said to me on the way down from the hike. Yesterday, I went on a rock climbing trip with the refugees and students from my rock climbing club at school. We went on a hike to a natural rock in Gwanaksan and climbed there with the refugees for almost 4 hours. At first, the refugees were a little worried of their safety and one of them jokingly said to me “don’t let me die please” before I belayed him for a climb. However, after a few tries the refugees started loving the climb and enjoyed the struggle of going up the rock. I personally enjoyed climbing too because it was my first time ever to go on an outdoor rock climbing after only rock climbing artificial rocks for two years.
So this was how this amazing trip came together.
But first, did you know that there are 30,000 refugees in Korea? But we only see the refugees in television news, and we barely see them around us. I think the reason is because of the lack of opportunity that the refugees have in Korea of coming outside and connecting to the local environment, and the racial prejudice and discrimination that Korean people have towards the refugees.
I believe that the best way to connect to a country is by being physically connected to its nature. That is why I chose to organise this Gwanaksan rock climbing trip with the students from KIS and the refugees from an organisation for refugees called pNan that I worked for during summer break.
At first, it was difficult to explain my ideas and ask for help to those that were a little reluctant on doing it. I had to bug Mr. Miller, our rock climbing teacher advisor, for consent and help. The pNan staffs were also not very into the idea of taking refugees outside because of potential dangers that they might have to deal with. However, after persuading them that this trip will be an awesome trip for everyone, people started to really help me. Mr. Miller introduced me to his friend Eddie, a professional rock climber, and he said he would volunteer his time and all the equipments that he needed for this trip. pNan said that they will send us three of their staffs with the refugees.
Personally, I feel like it was a great opportunity not only for the refugees, but for the students of KIS as well. In times when xenophobia towards refugees are growing stronger than ever in Korea, to be physically connected to the refugees through a single rope and a carabiner, one dangling above and one supported the other from under, created this invisible bond that told us that the refugees are not some people do be get rid of, but our friends that can help us and happily live with us in Korea.
* Special thanks to Eddie Park from I Guide Korea, who came all the way from Daejeon and organised all everything that was necessary for climbing from beginning to the end.