≡ Menu

World Friends Korea marks third anniversary

On Monday, I was at Cheong Wa Dae to attend a ceremony marking the third anniversary of the founding of World Friends Korea (WFK), Korea’s overseas volunteer service, something akin to the US Peace Corps or the UK’s Voluntary Service Overseas. I was there, along with Michael Hurt, Robert from Roboseyo, Stafford from the Chosun Bimbo and Matt from Gusts of Popular Feeling, as a “power blogger” (don’t laugh) at the invitation of the President’s Council on Nation Branding, to which I’m thankful for the invite. It’s not everyday you get to go to Cheong Wa Dae, after all.

One of the themes the Lee Myung-bak administration — with much sincerity, I believe — has been keen to emphasize is “Korea repaying its debt to the world.” Koreans — and older Koreans in particular — are well aware that during the Korean War and the difficult years and decades that followed, Korea was the recipient of much international good will. In recent years, Korea has boosted its efforts to repay its historic debts by increasing its level of activity in the international community. Korea transitioned from net aid recipient to aid donor in 1995, and in 2010, Korea joined the OECD Development Assistance Committee, the “only time since the OECD was established in 1961 that a country has joined the ‘advanced nations’ assistance club’ after transitioning from an aid recipient to a donor.”

World Friends Korea is part of this effort. Korea has been sending volunteers overseas for quite some time — in 1990, Korea sent its first batch of overseas volunteers with the Korea Overseas Volunteers program. Prior to the creation of WFK, however, Korea’s overseas volunteer program was split between three ministries, each with their own program. In 2009, these programs were brought together under the WFK brand. Two other state-run programs joined in 2010, and this year, several private programs joined up. In 2009, WFK sent over 4,000 volunteers overseas, largely but not exclusively to developing nations in Asia.

The event was largely so that the volunteers — many of them young college kids about to do short-term assignments with the Korea University Volunteers (KUV) program, might meet with Seoul’s diplomatic community, as well as volunteers returning from their assignments. President Lee Myung-bak and First Lady Kim Yoon-ok attended the event, with President Lee highlighting the afternoon with a short-but-to-the-point address to encourage the volunteers. Perhaps remembering that Korea, too, was once an aid recipient — he is of that generation, after all — he also admonished the volunteers to be humble. “By serving, you are receiving more than you are giving,” he said. “I hope you will remember this modesty when you go abroad.”

Also attending the event was US Ambassador Kathleen Stephens, who served in Korea as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1975 to 1977. Addressing the volunteers, she imparted some of the wisdom gained from her own volunteer experience. She told volunteers that by volunteering, they could do three things: 1) share their valuable skills and hard work with those who need them very much; 2) be an ambassador for Korea NOW, rather than 30 years from now; and 3) be an ambassador for the countries they’ve experienced for the rest of their lives. Speaking as a person who probably knows, she said, “You’re probably the first Koreans they’ve met, so be a good ambassador.”

Images courtesy of Michael Hurt

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    The expression “Nation Branding” has always sounded rather painful to me, but maybe that’s due to my rural background.

    Congratulations, though, all of you power bloggers! From the powerless blogger, Gypsy Scholar . . .

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • RALF

    As the 13th or 15th largest economy in the world and as a G20 participant, these are things Korea needs to be doing as its part on the national stage. A good message to go from poverty to prosperity and now to give back again. Enjoyed reading your post. I guess the blog title will now read, “Marmot’s Hole, Korea in POWER Blog Format.”

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Well, I think even those involved will tell you there’s still a lot more Korea could do, but it’s good to see things moving in the right direction. And the kids certainly seem to mean well.

  • http://www.chiamattt.com chiamattt

    There is a lot more most recipient countries could do.

  • Fullslab

    Kathleen Stephens should’ve been up front with the volunteers just like the Peace Corps…
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/11/us/11corps.html
    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/peace-corps-gang-rape-volunteer-jess-smochek-us/story?id=12599341
    The article above shows a video of two woman with one commercial in between.

  • Fullslab

    “…but it’s good to see things moving in the right direction.”
    It doesn’t sound like it below…
    “Prosecutor General in Hot Seat”
    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2011/05/117_87674.html
    “I am not saying that (female prosecutors) do not work. But in some extreme cases, their work attitude is different (from that of male prosecutors). From the man’s point of view, we can say there is a problem (with female prosecutors’ work ethics),” Kim said.

    I’d like to hear about just one “extreme case” of a male prosecutor.

    “As far as I know, male prosecutors put top priority on climbing the career ladder and achieving social recognition. In contrast, female prosecutors primarily pursue happiness,” Kim said.

    Does Prosecutor General Kim Joon-gyu has something to do with whether females climb up the ladder, and I wonder exactly what they have to do?

    ““Male prosecutors devote themselves 100 percent to work, regardless of what happens at home, while female prosecutors leave work unfinished to go home when their children are ill.”

    I wonder if more time is lost by female prosecutors going home to take care of sick children or male prosectors coming into work late due to too much soju the night before?

  • CactusMcHarris

    One question – does LMB have an olive oil voice and guinea charm to go with his porcelain makeup? He should be wearing at least an event trilby….

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    The floppy hats and matching t-shirts in bright colors reminds me of Korean missionary gatherings before they went abroad. Just say’in.

    Funny story about LMB and his “make-up”. During the G20 meeting, French President Sarkozy and LMB were having a chat about the EU FTA and Sarkozy said, “My, you are looking younger every time I see you.” For which LMB replied, “That’s because I’m using French cosmetics.”

    I’m assuming that LMB was joking.

  • iMe

    well, this is pretty damn cool. congrats are in order for those who were invited.
    btw, what’s chung wa dae like and why didn’t you take some pictures of it while you were there?

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Well, Cheong Wa Dae is very impressive, of course. The garden area where the event was held was absolutely lovely.

    And as for your second question, only one person in our party was allowed to bring a camera in.

  • http://midnightengineer.wordpress.com/ NetizenKim

    as a “power blogger” (don’t laugh) at the invitation of the President’s Council on Nation Branding, to which I’m thankful for the invite. It’s not everyday you get to go to Cheong Wa Dae, after all.

    You’re moving up in the world, Robert. Congrats. I’d like to think I contributed to that.

  • http://midnightengineer.wordpress.com/ NetizenKim

    The expression “Nation Branding” has always sounded rather painful to me, but maybe that’s due to my rural background.

    Something more painful than that is America’s own hobby, which is “nation building”.

  • 8675309

    Well, Cheong Wa Dae is very impressive, of course.

    Last time I visited Cheong Wa Dae in 2005 the guide made it a point to show us the exact place where Kim Jae-gyu shot Park Chung-hee during dinnertime. Didya get to see that? Anyhoo, I was most impressed with how much open space Cheong Wa Dae commands — absolutely incredible. They really should open it up to the public.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    They really should open it up to the public.

    Makes less sense when your neighbor is a little country called North Korea that sports a population that is (at least the well fed spies) physically indistinguishable from your own.

  • 8675309

    “…when your neighbor is a little country called North Korea that sports a population that is (at least the well fed spies) physically indistinguishable from your own.”

    Yeah, you can say that again, which reminds me of an incident that happened to me in February, 2002 in Seoul near Cheong Wa Dae.

    So this one day, I spent an afternoon climbing aimlessly up and down Inhwangsan starting from Sajik Park and ending up descending down the backside of Mt. Inhwang into Hyoja-dong — in an attempt get as close as possible to Cheong Wa Dae as I could.

    I should’ve known better against doing this, as there was almost no traffic there, ‘cept a limo darting here and there (this was before they opened up Bugaksan to the public).

    Anyways, I didn’t get far off the mountain trail descending from Inhwangsan into Hyoja-dong, when I was soon on my way down the road that led directly to Cheong Wa Dae. Then, within minutes, I was suddenly surrounded by a bunch of military-looking dudes in Gortex™ parkas wearing earpieces and carrying radios who swooped down from out of nowhere. (I later found out these guys were PSS – Presidential Security Service — or 경호실.) Basically, they were a bunch of Jopok — pushing and shoving me while questioning me aggressively in bapmal. When I answered in English, they backed off and changed their attitude completely, while politely pointing that I should return to where I came from.

    Anyhoo, looking back, I guess I couldn’t blame them for overreacting, as I may have looked suspicious to them, from their point o f view. Afterall, I was wearing an L.L. Bean™ Olive Drab-colored military-style rucksack over a Marmot Gortex™ jacket, which made me stick out like a sore thumb, in addition to my sinister looking Oakley’s™ and my badass-looking hiking boots, and the balaclava I was wearing — which most Koreans do not wear. Also, I was swinging my arms vigorously as I “marched” down the main street of Hyoja-dong in broad daylight on my way to the Blue House, which probably suggested I was either mental or another crazy NoKo commando on another suicide mission for the Fatherland.

  • Pingback: Milblogs | Blog | K-Bloggers Invited to Visit the Blue House

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    I’d like to think I contributed to that.

    Ha! Not above that of the guest bloggers.

  • Fullslab

    I think one blogger in particular was unfortunately left out…
    http://briandeutsch.blogspot.com/