Handicap is no bar for woman as successful insurance agentWhen she was six months old, Lee Hye-kyung was playing in front of the fire in the kitchen furnace when by accident, she touched a hot coal and burned both of her hands and arms.
She lost her right hand, and her left arm was amputated at the elbow.
Ms. Lee, 46, was only able to receive an elementary school education. She was embarrassed about her disability, and as a young student she tried to hide her arms from the prying eyes of the other children.
When she became a teenager, she lost the confidence to endure the jeers and teasing, and gave up going to school altogether.
Instead, she spent most of her time at home, helping out with household chores and doing Oriental embroidery with the help of artificial limbs.
When she was 28, she married a 48-year-old wood craftsman and had two daughters. She was living a simple and happy life until January 2004, when an insurance agent to whom she had introduced 40 clients suggested that she become an agent herself.
“For three years, the agent said that I should become an insurance agent since I had helped her so much in introducing clients,” Ms. Lee said. “I said OK because I could no longer say no, but my family was against the idea, especially since we weren’t poor and didn’t need the money.”
Some family members made a bet that she wouldn’t survive for three months. Even her daughters were wary about how well their mother would do as a salesperson.
“But then I always tell my children to do their best and try to be the best of their group. I wanted to apply the same rules to myself,” Ms. Lee said.
Within seven months of become an insurance saleswoman, Ms. Lee was promoted to director of a 10-person team, a position usually given to employees with at least three or four years of experience.
Last year, Ms. Lee sold 83 insurance premiums worth 200 million won ($200,000), about double the performance of the average agent. For her fine work, she was recently awarded the company’s “New Face Grand Prize.”
Ms. Lee says she will continue her work as an insurance agent.
“I think I have overcome my handicap and now like to associate with people. I would like to continue to work because I believe that I can give hope to other disabled people and people in difficult situations,” she said.
by Kim Chang-gyu
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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