Members May Go, But the Nordic Women's Group Is Here to StayPoets may hail spring as a time of new beginnings, but in the Korean Nordic community, spring is the time for goodbyes.
"It's a bit of a sad moment," said the president of the Nordic Women's Group during the association's meeting last Wednesday. "We will miss you, but we wish you all the best," Anneli Haipus-Jarvinen said to four members who will be leaving Korea soon.
Spring and summer are prime times for community members to move to other countries. When June rolls around, most of the members vacation in their homelands. During this time the group also takes an official summer break.
The last meeting until August was held at the residence of the ambassador of the Netherlands. The luncheon included a presentation by the make-up company Sisley, preparations for the Seoul International Women's Assocation's bazaar in November and a wrap-up of plans for the Nordic Women's spring ball at the Hyatt hotel last April.
While the sole focus of the group is not on charity, it has raised 5.7 million won ($4,350) for charity from the ball. The money will go to the Angels Haven, a home for orphans and handicapped children. Last year, the organization donated 17 million won to different charities.
The group meets once a month either at members' homes or at a restaurant. It also organizes cultural activities like visiting a pottery village, cooking Korean food or attending tea ceremonies.
Nurses from Sweden, Norway and Denmark living in Korea began the group in 1969, then called the Scandinavian Woman's Club. Most of the members were employed at the hospital run by Scandinavians. When the hospital became the National Medical Center, nurses began to return home. Instead of dying out, membership simply changed to wives of businessmen as Scandinavian businesses began to penetrate the Korean market. The group has evolved to include members of other Nordic countries and a few Koreans.
Birgitta Shin recalls that there were 20 members when she joined in 1975. Soon afterward, the economy took a turn for the worse and businesses pulled out. At one point membership dwindled to four, but as Nordic embassies and businesses such as Ericsson came to Korea the vacancies were slowly filled.
The group is now a meeting point for Nordic women. "It is easier coming to a foreign culture when you are with people who have gone through the things you are going through," said Tanja M. Moshoj. The group is a lifeline between one's heritage and Korea.
A cacophony of Nordic languages filled the ambassador's house during the last meeting. Nordic countries include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. "Each country has its own language and culture, but there are also many cultural similarities," Mrs. Moshoj said. "Being so far from home we all feel the similarities are greater than the differences."
For more information, e-mail tmoshoj@kornet .net.
by Joe Yong-hee