May 29, 2013 by rkpcs
Tuesday 28th May started with the team visiting a children’s library in Suncheon City. The inspiration for the library, which is funded by local government, came from a trip to the UK by the director of the library, Mrs Heo. After learning about the “book start” programme (where children are given books appropriate to their age to help with their reading) she decided to set up a library dedicated to children’s needs.
The library is a large building, spread over two floors and incorporating a small theatre where activities take place including parent and child activity sessions. The building was designed by an architect who spent time researching child development and designed the space specifically to meet the needs of the children – Mrs Heo uses the saying “book are important but space is more important”. When entering the building visitors have to take their shoes off, just as you would when entering any Korean house, which encourages visitors to feel more relaxed and at home inside the library. There is even a designated area where young children can sleep if they are tired after reading!
The next stop for the team was Suncheon Police Station where the team met the Station Chief and Ed was able to ask questions of the chief including the major objectives of the police, the way the police are always prepared for a potential foreign invasion, the network of volunteer officers, the importance of tacking issues of domestic violence and school violence and the policing budget. The team were also given a brief tour of the station.
The next two visits of the day were to speak to two lawyers, both of whom were based in Suncheon City and both of whom had practiced both civil and criminal law for many years. This afforded Lucy the opportunity ask questions of both lawyers covering topics including the often difficult relationship between the police and the prosecution in the South Korean legal system and societies’ view of the recent developments regarding this relationship; the trial of the jury system in South Korea; the role of the death penalty in Korean Law and recent changes in the way new lawyers are trained which is leading to a much needed increase in the number of new lawyers qualifying in South Korea.
The final visit of the day was also the final professional vocational visit of the exchange! The team were very fortunate to be able to meet and spend time with Mr Park, the Chief Judge from Suncheon Supreme Court. Mr Park had also been generous enough with his time to meet with the team for lunch at a local restaurant earlier in the day. Having previously studied in Oxford Mr Park has a fantastic command of the English language and was keen to share with the team his fond memories of the UK and his desire to be involved in the legal system from a very young age. The afternoon session at Suncheon Supreme Court was a brilliant opportunity for Lucy to have detailed discussions with Mr Park, and two other Judges who also met with the team, on a wide range of legal topics including the benefits of jury system and the recent trial in South Korea and, the role of the judge in the legal system, how judges are trained, the public perception of judges, the role of the media plays in reporting court proceedings, the death penalty and the role it plays within the legal system and some of the developments that are needed within the legal system. Whilst this was going on the team were given a fascinating guided tour of the Supreme Court building which was built seven years ago and contains seven different court rooms and a very impressive court office where people can complete all sorts of functions from paying court fines to obtaining property certificates and filing a civil complaint. Just as important as all this though was the time of Mr Park and his colleagues and their openness and willingness to not only discuss their profession but also talk about many aspects of South Korean life and culture, the rapid developments that the nation and the people have gone through – both positive and negative – and the developments that need to be made in the legal system, the government, education and society as a whole in order for the country to keep on improving into the future. The team learnt so much and shared many ideas – for this experience they are truly thankful.
A very successful day was rounded off by a (now customary) traditional Korean evening. During this team were given the opportunity to give a brief presentation to the local Rotary Club with each team member focusing on the positive and negative aspects of how their profession was practised in South Korea. The team relished this opportunity and provided the club with considered accounts of their experiences which were very well received and appeared to be well respected. The hospitality of our hosts was, as ever, very warm, friendly and inviting – before the meal the British national anthem was even played out in the restaurant!