Talent Reunion: A platform for smart networking
Talent Reunion: A platform for smart networking
A wide range of Saudi and expat talents from different backgrounds, ages, and working sectors attend the reunions. With meetings being widely successful, it has built its reputation as a lifestyle networking hub in Saudi Arabia. Yazan Jamous, founder of Talent Reunion in an interview with Arab News speaks about its creation and the long journey.
What is Talent Reunion? How did it start?
Talent Reunion is a non-profit lifestyle networking platform. It involves events held periodically in different countries in order to bring individuals, enterprises and community leading figures together at one place to refine talents and enhance successful business partnerships. It first started in the year 2010 in the UAE as a reunion of American University of Sharjah alumni. Later, in 2012, the first reunion was held outside the UAE in Saudi Arabia. It was a huge success in terms of the attendees’ qualities and community figures who joined the reunion. Since Saudi Arabia needed such a concept, the Talent Reunion was launched as a monthly event.
What made Talent Reunion a successful concept in Saudi Arabia?
The success of Talent Reunion is mainly due to the members and their enthusiasm for attending the events and hanging out. Their diversity in education, professionalism, backgrounds and hobbies makes discussions and topics go on and on. Moreover, they are eager to learn and meet new people.
What topics are discussed at the gathering?
All topics related to lifestyle. Like this year, we started with “Innovation of Money Making” in January and “Innovation of Food” in February, where everyone contributed the best of the best ideas. However, in the coming months, several topics such as diplomacy, design thinking, coffee, reading, recycling, arts, advertising, human resources, industries and music will be covered.
Who are Talents? What is Innovation?
Talents are individuals with a diverse profile. They have a strategic development set of mind with an aim to increase the awareness of intellectual abilities and inspire other individuals around them. Talent is a trivia word created as a theoretical model to promote and target a quality of mindset leaders. Innovation is the process where new talents meet in a new place to share new ideas. Meeting or reunion is designed in a way that facilitates the generation of innovative ideas, projects or collaborations.
Saudi culture is known to be very social. Why networking now?
Well, Saudi culture is social indeed. However, we are taking care of networking now more than ever because nowadays, with the notable increase of multiple uses of technology and various ways to contact each other, people have no time to meet — virtually or in reality. This has its bad influence on individuals and on society in general. I think it is great to get together again with friends from childhood or from different stages in life, and connect with other new friends in order to enlarge the normal circle of people we know. Moreover, this has a very good impact on everyone’s life directly or indirectly in many aspects, including both professionally and personally.
Why multicultural talents and different backgrounds, ages, and occupations?
Having different backgrounds, ages, and occupations helps us achieve our goal to build the biggest non-profit lifestyle networking platform that brings all individuals together at one place to refine talents and enhance successful business partnerships.
How can Talent Reunion be helpful to individuals?
Meeting new people, discussing and sharing new ideas during the reunion enriches the outlook toward society and helps in gaining knowledge on different topics. One can be a part of Talent Reunion by visiting our website www.TalentReunion.com
How many cities does Talent Reunion cover?
We have regular meetings in Jeddah, Riyadh, Madinah and Yanbu at present. However, we have a plan to expand locally and abroad very soon.
What is the 2015 plan?
This year is going to be a fruitful one; full of meetings and reunions. Month after month our agenda will be full of activities that have rich and entertaining content for talents. After the expansion we are planning to hold similar meetings in the Eastern Provinces, Dubai, Amman, and Beirut.
How do you see the future of Talent Reunion?
We see it as an international organization that links talents together, where individuals meet from all walks of life, and help each other find business colleagues and consultants.
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’Dream or reality?’ Koreans to meet after decades apart
- It is a move in the right direction, but this could still be the last time the relatives meet
- Since the end of the war, both Koreas have banned ordinary citizens from visiting relatives on the other side of the border
SEOUL, South Korea: Lee Soo-nam was 8 the last time he saw his older brother. Sixty-eight years ago this month the boy watched, bewildered, as his 18-year-old brother left their home in Seoul to escape invading North Korean soldiers who were conscripting young men just weeks after invading South Korea to start the Korean War.
An hour later his brother, Ri Jong Song, was snatched up by North Korean soldiers near a bridge across Seoul’s Han River. Lee always assumed Ri died during the three-year war that killed and injured millions before a cease-fire in 1953, but his mother prayed daily for her lost son’s return, only giving up a few years before her death in 1975.
But Ri survived the war, living in North Korea. The brothers, now 76 and 86, will be among hundreds of Koreans who will participate, starting Monday, in a week of temporary reunions of divided families. Many have had no contact with each other since the war cemented the division of the peninsula into the North and South.
The elderly relatives gathering at North Korea’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort know that, given the fickle nature of ties between the rival Koreas, this could be the last time they see each other before they die.
“I’m nervous. I’m still unsure whether this is a dream or reality. I just want to thank him for staying alive all these years,” Lee said in an interview in his home in Seoul, not far from where he last saw his brother.
Since the end of the war, both Koreas have banned ordinary citizens from visiting relatives on the other side of the border or contacting them without permission. Nearly 20,000 people have participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face reunions since 2000. No one has had a second chance to see their relatives.
This week’s reunions come after a three-year hiatus during which North Korea tested three nuclear weapons and multiple missiles that demonstrated the potential of striking the continental United States.
At past meetings, elderly relatives — some relying on wheelchairs or walking sticks — have wept, hugged and caressed each other in a rush of emotions. According to Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, more than 500 separated South Koreans and their family members will cross the border for two separate rounds of reunions between Aug. 20 and 26.
At Diamond Mountain, Lee expects to meet Ri and his 79-year-old North Korean wife and 50-year-old son. Lee will bring more than a dozen family photos, including a black-and-white picture of Ri in a buzz-cut when he was 16 or 17.
“That’s how I remember him,” Lee said. “I lost a brother and my parents lost a child, but my brother lost his parents, siblings, friends and an entire hometown, and he probably spent his whole life longing for all of those things. It’s heartbreaking to think about.”
The difference in the siblings’ family names is a product of the Korean Peninsula’s division — each country uses different English transliteration rules, so Lee in the South is spelled Ri in the North.
Many of the South Korean participants in the reunions will be war refugees who were born in North Korea.
Kim Kwang-ho, 79, was among some 14,000 refugees who were ferried to South Korea by the American freighter SS Meredith Victory in December 1950 in one of the world’s largest humanitarian operations. Also on the ship were the parents of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who described the evacuation as a “voyage of freedom and human rights” in a speech in Washington last year.
At the reunions, Kim expects to meet his 78-year-old brother, Kim Kwang Il, and his sister-in-law. Kim has vivid memories of what he described as a beautiful hometown in northern North Korea, where he plowed rice and corn fields with cattle, picked peaches and apricots from trees and spent hours swimming in brooks.
He gets emotional when talking about the mother he left behind, who used to cry over the death of his brother during the war.
“I have clear memories of events that happened,” Kim said. “But somehow I can’t remember the faces of my mother and brother.”
Behind the raw emotions, the meetings are tightly coordinated events where participants are closely watched by North Korean officials and dozens of South Korean journalists.
As in previous reunions, South Korea’s Red Cross, which organizes the events with its North Korean counterpart, has issued a guidebook telling South Koreans what to do and what not to do.
“Political comments such as criticism of the North’s leadership and the state of its economy could put your (North Korean) family members into a difficult situation,” the green book says. “If a North Korean family member sings a propaganda song or makes a political comment, restrain them appropriately by naturally changing the subject of the conversation.”
Lee knows he won’t be able to talk much about what happened when his brother was taken in August 1950. Instead, he plans to share childhood memories, such as when Ri took his younger brothers on a hike on nearby Mount Nam to look at foxes living near an old fortress wall.
South Koreans also can’t give their North Korean relatives luxury items because of international sanctions imposed on the North over its nuclear and missile programs, with past cash gifts banned this year to reflect the sanctions, according to a South Korean Red Cross official who didn’t want to be identified, citing office rules.
The reunions are occurring during a flurry of diplomatic contacts. In recent months, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has met Moon twice and held a summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore, where they issued a vague goal of a nuclear-free peninsula, without describing how and when it would occur.
Moon, who plans to meet Kim again in September in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, says progress in inter-Korean reconciliation will be a crucial part of international efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff with the North. The Koreas have held military talks and are fielding combined teams at this month’s Asian Games in Indonesia in a gesture of goodwill.
Still, South Korea has failed to persuade the North to accept its long-standing proposal for more frequent reunions with more participants. North Korea has also ignored the South’s suggestion of hometown visits and letter exchanges.
The limited number of reunions cannot meet the demands of divided family members, who are now mostly in their 80s and 90s, South Korean officials say. More than 75,000 of the 132,000 South Koreans who have applied to participate in reunions have died, according to government figures.
Analysts say North Korea sees the reunions as an important bargaining chip with the South, and doesn’t want them expanded because they give its people better awareness of the outside world. While South Korea uses a computerized lottery to pick participants for the reunions, North Korea is believed to choose based on loyalty to its authoritarian leadership.
“When we meet this time, that will be the end for me,” said Yoon Heung-kyu, a 91-year-old Korean War veteran from the South and a staunch anti-communist campaigner in his youth who will be meeting his North Korean brother-in-law and grandnephew.
“North Korea guards against exposing its people to the free South because of fear of a regime collapse. It just allows 100 or so participants every several years to save face internationally,” he said. “These aren’t really family reunions; if they were, we would be meeting in our hometowns, not at Diamond Mountain.”