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Han Bi-ya starting a new chapter in her life

‘It is like you are tying your shoelaces once again before climbing up a new mountain.’

July 11,2009
Han Bi-ya promotes her new book on July 8 at the Korea Press Center. [YONHAP]
Han Bi-ya has had an accomplished career, devoting much of her life to humanitarian work and to helping children through several best-selling books.

But at an age when many people begin preparing for retirement, the 51-year-old is just getting started.

Han, who leads an emergency relief team at World Vision International, will leave Korea next month to earn a master’s degree in humanitarian assistance at Tufts University near Boston, Massachusetts.

Known for her best-selling book “March Off the Map,” which urges children to follow their dreams and explore the world, Han has long been recognized by YMCA Korea as an emerging leader.

She also frequently ranks high in polls on Internet portal sites such as Naver asking users to vote for who they’d most like to meet in person.

Despite her success in Korea, Han is looking for a new challenge abroad to further hone her skills.

“Sailors who always sail on a calm sea can never become truly skilled,” she said. “I want to develop my academic knowledge in the field of humanitarian aid to become an expert in that area. While working in the field, I realized that I am short of theoretical knowledge related to humanitarian aid.”

“I decided to study abroad because I can carry out my service much more effectively if I am equipped with academic insight,” she added. “It is like you are tying your shoelaces once again before climbing up a new mountain.”

Han said that she won’t regret her decision even if she fails to earn a diploma.

The real educational experience, she said, comes from the process itself, not the actual result.

“It is not important whether you succeed or fail,” Han said. “Rather, what counts is that you tried hard and learned something.”

Han expects to stay in Massachusetts for 18 months to complete the master’s program.

Before leaving the country, Han appeared in public on Wednesday at the Korea Press Center in Taepyeongno, central Seoul, to promote her eighth book, titled “Power of Love,” which urges readers to love and respect people for who they are.

“I want to emphasize that all human beings deserve to be loved regardless of how bad their test scores are or if they have a job or not,” Han said. “I hope parents can embrace their children and encourage them even if they fail. You can learn a lot from failure.”


By Kim Sung-hee [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]


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