Hamilton District Christian High School student Sang Woo Lee says he hadn’t heard of restorative justice until his history teacher talked about it in class last March.
His teacher, Nathan Siebenga, introduced the topic to his class when he heard about a restorative justice essay contest through the school’s principal. “The topic is dear to my heart so I offered it to the class,” says Siebenga.
Restorative justice strives to repair the harm that has been done through looking at who has been hurt, who has done the harm and how to repair the harm with consideration for all involved including the community. The people involved are encouraged to find the solutions.
The 2007 National Restorative Justice Youth Writing Contest was sponsored by Mediation Services, YOUCAN and Simon Fraser University, with the support of Victim Offender Mediation Association (VOMA) and the Correctional Service of Canada.
The essay contest is divided into three different age categories. For Lee’s 15-18 year-old category the essay was to address what is restorative justice, how restorative justice is alive and working in your community, how do people work together to make this work in real life, some realistic ways things could be improved and what would it take, and what you do personally based on restorative justice principles.
Lee’s essay is entitled Neighbourhood Collaborates: How North and South Korea embraced restorative justice – And what we can learn from it. Lee, who is from South Korea, says he chose to write his essay on North and South Korea because he was naturally aware of the situation.
In his essay, Lee says people should understand that restorative justice is applicable to everyone – from conflicts between people to wars between countries.
His essay describes the history of North and South Korea’s division in 1953, which caused families to be separated. Since the first inter-Korean summit in 2000 there has been progress with the two governments working together, resulting in reunions for some families after years of separation.
“We, as global citizens, as a whole global community, hold responsibility of acknowledging what made this miracle … . Many people desired this reunion, and worked hard to make it come true,” Lee wrote in the essay.
Lee worked on the essay while he was in South Korea, and found out his essay was selected in November. “I was very surprised (to have my essay selected),” Lee says, adding that English is his second language.
“I found his approach to the restorative justice and the Korean history was interesting and applicable. Any time a student latches on to something that they are interested in at school it needs to be encouraged and this is something that Sang Woo feels passionately about,” says Siebenga.
Lee won recognition and a cash prize. Hamilton District Christian High was also presented with a collection of videos and texts on restorative justice.