Building peace through Rotary service
Posted on February 20, 2019by rotaryservice
By Soomin Kim, Rotary International Staff
Most of the members the Rotary Club of Ulsan Jayu (meaning freedom in Korean) are refugees emigrants from North Korea. Many risked their lives emigrating in pursuit of greater opportunities and are still struggling to adapt to South Korean society. Through the humanitarian service work of South Korean Rotary clubs, immigrants are healing and increasing their sense of belonging and pride as productive citizens of society. Club President Ju-Eun Seok shares her journey and the role Rotary plays in her life.
Soomin Kim: What hardships did you overcome before coming to Korea?
Ju-Eun Seok: I left North Korea in 1997 and crossed the Yalu River with my high school friends. I married a local farmer in Liaoning Province, China and lived there for 6 years. In 2003, I was finally able to arrive to the Republic of Korea.
Life in China had always been anxious and tough because of the fear that I might get discovered and forced to return to North Korea. My husband and I had to frequently flee during the night to avoid the crackdowns by Chinese officials.
SM: Tell me about your difficulties in the settlement process.
JS: I thought people in South Korea would be similar to the people of North Korea since we share the same language, history, culture, customs, and more. But I was wrong. I found myself in a different society run by a system I had never experienced, I was confused and frustrated.
Language was especially difficult, as I could not understand what people were saying; they used unfamiliar capitalism terms such as “stock market” or “investment” and English words had become integrated into everyday conversation.
In addition to the communication barrier, I did not have any connection to this new country except my refugee friends, who like me, did not have any knowledge of the country. I had to learn and solve every problem I faced on my own.

SM: How did you connect with Rotary?

JS: Over the last 15 years, I received support from people I met along the way. Without their help and encouragement, I would not be here today. Several years ago, in order to give back to the community, I started to volunteer along with my refugee friends for a local facility for children.  Click for the full story at RI