Since birth, we have been involved in communities, from family, peer groups, kindergarten, schools, to society. As university students, school is the most important because this is where we spend time the most and belong to even now. At the same time, every community has an outcast and school is not an exception. Wangdda is the name for such an outcast. Then the questions of why and how follow.
Wangdda or school violence always has been an issue and even now it is ongoing. A solution, however, has still not been found. In fact, there have been constant personal, institutional, and even governmental efforts to deal with school violence, but have not yielded any substantial effects. The reason is simple—it is because they have been conducted from the viewpoints of adults, not teenagers. Rather, adults should have brought their view down to teenagers’ level and figured out what happened among them while sincerely understanding them. Now it is time that they got rid of their conventional approach and made a friendly approach for teenagers.
▲ The Teenager’s Day promoting Friend’s Day. Provided by www.friending.or.kr.
The very organization which is successfully conducting friendly approach is Friending, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) launched in 2012. Its name is a compound word of Friend and ding, referring to students in Korean, such as in Choding. As well as its name, the approach they take for teenagers is quite joyfu,l unlike other NGOs struggling to solve school violence. “I do not want the saying ‘Teenagers are the hope of the future’ to turn into an empty echo,” said Baek Doo Won, the representative of Friending. According to Baek, to leave teenagers unhappy is the same with leaving the future unhappy.
Friending, therefore, began with the quest for establishing a “happy” school culture. In fact, it is evident that happiness itself has enough value to be pursued as a community goal as well as a personal agenda. To make a school happy, first, each case of school violence should be solved. According to Baek, a common principle underlying every case of school violence is that there is a victim, and also an assailant. “Since they always coexist, adjusting the balance between them is what we have to do first.” The ultimate goal of friending is to help teenagers find their dream and have them go their own ways.
Specifically, to achieve a happy school culture, Friending is working on various projects in practice. Baek strongly pointed out the absence of Teenager’s Day, while there are almost all other days, including Children’s Day, Parents’ Day, and Labor Day. Aware of this issue, Friending is endeavoring to enact July 9 as a teenager’s day. Teenager’s day is to cheer for Korean teenagers and to give them a chance to find their true friend. Based on this idea, they are planning to hold a 7.9 kilometer-long marathon that day, when a teenager and his or her friends run together.
Another project of the organization is “Friending bell.” “When we were young, we followed two types of people—friends and idols, and this became the underlying conception of Friending bell,” said Baek. Unlike other school bells, “Friending bell” is a recording of the voice of teenager idols. Until now, comedians Jeong Tae Ho and Park Sung Gwang have participated in it, but Baek believes it can be expanded to those in other fields like sport players and singers who teenagers think of as their idols.
▲ The comedian Hong In Gyu is talking with students at Friending School. Provided by www.friending.or.kr.
▲ The singer Kim Jang Hoon is talking with students at Friending School. Provided by www.friending.or.kr.
“Friending School” is one of the most active projects Friending is pursuing. When Friending School opens, several celebrities go to the designated school once a week and meet teenagers. Since now, singers Kim Jang Hoon, Lee Dong Woo and comedian Hong In Gyu, Yoon Hyung Bin and pro-boxer Seo Doo Won have visited Friending School and talked about their own stories with the teenagers. During Friending School, hearing their unhappy stories, teenagers are encouraged to live hopefully and recover trust toward grown-ups, who might have unintentionally influenced their unhappy circumstances.
The word ‘friend’ does not necessarily mean peer friend. Even grown-ups can be friends, be friending teenagers. Sometimes, they can be better friends because they have experience and have power to understand as well. That is what presentday teenagers urgently need, but have not received enough from the adults. “How will you respond when a teenager tells you he has been scolded by teacher for smoking?” Baek asks present-day parents.
▲ The representative of Friending, Baek Doo Won. Provided by www.friending.or.kr.
“I am certain that 99 percent of them will scold them once again for smoking. In fact, what teenagers want for us is not more than just listening to them,” he said. Baek emphasized that what grown-ups should do is to sincerely try to understand teenagers. That is, they need to deeply get into the problem with teenagers, not trying to get out of the problem. It can give teenagers a feeling that they can be friends with grown-ups as well. “Sometimes, giving into a teenager’s whims is more effective than letting them know what is right or wrong,” he added.
Baek suggested how Korean future should be changed for students from now on. He thinks that nowadays the route toward dreams is too narrow. Therefore, teenagers inevitably get hurt in the process. Lastly, he emphasized the role of grown-ups once again. “They should not just say ‘do it,’ but be willing to change the general social atmosphere first. Then, many teenagers’ dreams will be acknowledged, and if so, they indeed can grow up as the hope for the future.”