Taebaek’s First Model United Nations

Back when the temperatures were far below zero, and we were warming up to hot Taebaek tagkalbi, our coordinator Joseph asked if any of us had every participated in a Model United Nations conference. Having loved my experience at the Harvard National MUN in my first year of university, I jumped at the opportunity to talk about it. Evidently, my enthusiasm for mock-politics with blazers and research binders was exactly what he was looking for. Our City Hall (or as the Koreans pronounce it in English “shitty hall”) wanted to host a MUN for middle and high school students–in English.

Preparing for the day! It felt pretty cool to have a  “Chairman” placard.
After a few months of planning, spamming, and cramming, we convened with Taebaek’s Model Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee to discuss media censorship. Sitting around City Hall’s fancy boardroom with big leather chairs and high-tech microphones, our delegation included Russia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Japan, USA, China, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Italy, Sweden, and Uruguay.
The students were required to research and prepare a 1-2 page position paper on their country’s stance on the media censorship. Despite writing the papers in their second language, the students handed in some impressive work.
Presenting position papers for the General Debate.
To make the event more accessible for the students, we adjusted the process of the committee. We started with a roll call, then moved right into the “general debate” where each country presented their position paper. Then we asked each delegation to write one yes-or-no question about the topic, (for example, “Japan believes that whistle-blowers should be better protected by their governments. Do you agree?) which I read to the committee. They voted yes or no so that each delegation could get a feel for which countries might align with them on the topic. Then, we moved right into resolution drafting, and after about an hour presented and voted on the resolutions.

Although it can be difficult for students to argue their country’s point of view when it conflicts with their own, the students proved to be well-researched and staying in character for the majority of the event. One of the most interesting dynamics between the students we that of Russia and the Ukraine. Although the countries have similar stances on the topic (believing that while freedom of speech is important, individual states should have some control over the media in order to protect national interests and prevent misinformation), the tensions existing between the countries frequently got in the way of productive resolutions. The Ukraine cited the importance of state-monitored media censorship in reference to the spread of Russian media that the Ukraine views as false. So imagine how the Russian delegation responded to these accusations!

The pro-regulation group.
The anti-censorship group.
At the end of the day, the countries were able to unite over their shared interests, but had to disagree on its applications in their respective countries. Nevertheless, the delegation overall was unable to agree on a resolution and the topic remained open to further debate. Unfortunately, we did not have time to begin the amendment process, but now the students are better prepared for the next event.
United Kingdom – unfortunately the English textbooks here teach that the UK is called England, and that the Union Jack applies to England.

Thanks to some keen students and the support of our City Hall, the first installment of our Annual Taebaek Model United Nations was a success. We are so fortunate in our little rural town of Taebaek that City Hall is so enthusiastic about and supportive of English programming for our youth.

If you’re interested in organizing a similar event for your school or town, feel free to get in touch with me at maggie.edwards94@gmail.com. Our guidebook can be accessed here.

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