[Update: April 12 2021] see this announcement for a Korean (shortened) version of the story.
this is a slightly expanded version of my fb post: https://www.facebook.com/cho.k.hyun/posts/10216267975445626.
i’ve lived in three countries-finland, canada and US- over the past 12 years as an expat/immigrant myself, which makes me pretty well aware of issues and challenges faced by immigrants, in particular east asian ones, in these countries. this made me incorrectly believe that i know the challenges and issues faced by immigrants everywhere beyond these three countries, including korea where i was born and raised as a korean national and had lived for 20+ years. this was until i saw this post by Alice, where she shared a link to the homepage of “Hanmaum Education Volunteer Corp who helps children of immigrant families in challenging environments by providing free education” (my own translation of an excerpt from the original post.)
how did i miss this? this glaringly obvious omission of immigrant kids from all those years i was growing up in korea. somehow i’ve never had a chance to even have a single peer in any of the schools i had attended who was a kid of an immigrant family. realizing this was and is still quite a shock, considering that the number of immigrants, immigrant families and their children has been only growing over the past decades.
then, i realize it’s because i was born and raised near the center of the society. this has made me pretty much blind to corners of the society, and all these immigrant moms (it’s also a bit concerning that it’s disproportionately immigrant “moms”) and their children were and are in those corners of the society. it was this post by Alice and this effort by Emeritus professor Byung-Gyu Choi of KAIST that barely made me take a glimpse at this corner. what a blind fool have i been, and what else am i being blind to..?
last november (2020), i was invited to give an opening talk at SK ICT Tech Summit 2020, perhaps unsurprisingly together with Alice (i’m a huge fan!), and talked about my on-going project on breast cancer screening (see the recording of the talk here). SKT generously paid me $6,000 lecture fee (and yes, it was super-generous, and i rarely receive any lecture fee from my invited talks ever.) i’ve been thinking about how i was going to spend this, and have decided to donate the entire sum to the Hanmaum education volunteer corp.
it’s not a lot, and it doesn’t come any close to students and other volunteers who are on the ground providing education to these moms and kids. i hope however that this small gesture of mine would help immigrant parents & kids receive education they truly deserve.
p.s. i’m quite proud to see my former visiting student and current good friend, Keunwoo, following my lead and showing others what to do 🙂