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Offbeat

Love of Korean pop links UK teenagers with Palestinian refugees

BTS at the 2017 American Music Awards at the Microsoft Theatre LA Live.
LONDON: The sugary pop songs of South Korean groups BTS, EXO and BlackPink might be sung in Korean but it has not stopped Palestinian refugee teenager Tasnim from being an avid fan from her home in war-torn Syria.
To Tasnim’s surprise, it is a love shared by students at London’s Connaught School for Girls with whom her school in Damascus holds Skype calls as part of a project to connect refugee students in the Middle East with European and US pupils.
“My favorite kind of music is K-pop music, Korean music,” exclaimed Tasnim during a recent video call, sitting alongside classmates from two schools in the Syrian capital run by aid agency United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA).
“Do you like BTS?” 14-year-old British student Asiya replied, before excited chatter erupts between the two groups about their favorite “K-pop” performers.
“Did you hear their latest song? Do you like BlackPink?” said Tasnim, wearing a white hijab, as does Asiya in London.
More than half a million Palestinian refugee students attend 700 UNRWA schools across Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, the aid agency said.
UNRWA was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949 after thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in the 1948 war that followed Israel’s creation.
“Even though we are worlds apart ... we’re all teenagers, so we found some common ground,” said Asiya, who volunteered to join the “My Voice, My School” project run by UNRWA and social enterprise Digital Explorer to learn more about refugees.
“It was quite ironic because we were on a conference call to people in Syria and we were talking about Korea.”
UNRWA says it currently supports 5.3 million Palestinians across the Middle East, including in Gaza and the West Bank.

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