New Humanity Movement

Ethnicities and Cultures

Corea134

 

 

The 1950 Korean civil war left the country divided in two: South and North Korea, separated at the 38th latitude parallel. As you all know, the North is under a very rigid military regime that allows no freedom and is leading the population toward disaster because it lacks food and basic services...

By Amata Kim

 

Presently, in South Korea there are more than 20,000 refugees that came from the North; of these some 700 are in contact with the members of the New Humanity Movement and Focolare Movement.

This countenance inspired the setting up in 2003 of the ‘Village of Joy’; one Sunday a month the local community provides medical care for the foreign workers and the North Korean refugees. During these years the project was developed much further: now it is frequented by more than 150 persons that come not only form North Korea but also from other Asian countries like The Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The volunteers involved number about 50; they take it in turns to prepare food, while the young persons of the community look after the other needs. In fact, besides the medical care, they offer other services like clothing, hair-dressing and Korean language lessons. Our aim is to love these persons so as to create a family spirit that banishes solitude and the persons feel encouraged and respected in their dignity in a foreign country. Today the ‘Village of Joy’ at Suwon is situated in a high school, while that at Daegu is in a middle school. 

At first, dealing with the North Korean refugees proved to be quite difficult: they were persons that have been forced to think solely for themselves. Thus, when food or clothes were being distributed, they fought each other to jump the queue, even though they knew each other. Sometimes they even shouted at the doctor in order to receive attention. Every time this happened, we became more aware of the harsh reality that these refugees have lived through. Our only concern was to show them love, and now, after some years, things are much better: some of them, after being at the hair-dresser, pulled out some money and wanted to show their gratitude. In this we discerned that mutual love was growing. 

In fact, while running the ‘Village of Joy’, we always strive to listen to the voice of Jesus in our midst, especially whenever we want to start a new project: the persons are encouraged to express their ideas, and we do our best to ‘become one’ with them. Our experience is that every time we do this we feel guided by God and we obtain good results. 

We make it a point to be with them on feast days, when one, being away from home, tends to feel loneliness much more. On New Year’s Day, the day of Chusok, we celebrate with them a sort of ‘thanksgiving day’ that belongs to the Korean tradition; for the occasion we prepare one of our typical meals. On Christmas Day we give them presents and have a big party with them.   

The Korean language lessons started in 2007, and many find them very useful. In order to improve their learning we are using even the modern means of communication, like Skype and SMS’s. Recently we have increased the number of lessons so that they could master the language in a shorter time. Some of them have learned to read well and also to send SMS’s: their joy to be able to keep in touch with others was great. One needs to adapt the language according to the person being addressed: that used with the boss at work is different form that used within the family; in this effort we see the possibility to love better the others. 

In the Daegu ‘Village’, a Filipina said that during the language course her faith in God was enhanced. She confided to us her familial and economic difficulties. A priest offered her a job: teaching English to Koreans; now she helps other Filipinos who are married to Koreans. Her husband, who was a member of the Moonies, has asked to be baptized. 

One of the volunteers at the ‘Village’ was a doctor who was an atheist. He went away for his military service, and on his return he told us: “At first there were more volunteers than visitors, and I had serious doubts about the success of this initiative. Now, that I’m back, I’m really surprised by its success! The most striking thing is that in every group of social volunteers the problem of a clash of personalities always crops up; here, however, even if it crops up, the problem disappears almost without one noticing”. Now, although very busy with his own clinic, this doctor comes back whenever he feels down. 

 

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