Like nature, migrants are innately resilient
In the early spring of 1994, residents of apartments in Gayang-dong, western Seoul, complained that they couldn’t keep their windows open because Nanjido, an island on the other side of the Han River, was being used as a dump. But much has changed since then.
Nearly 20 years later, I visited Nanjido and could not find a trace of the dump. There, the Migrant Health Association of Korea hosted the 10th Rainbow Festival for the Friends of Hope, an event that attracts people of many cultures. A colleague said the festival would be a great chance to have fun and do community service.
At the festival, about 500 children of all colors and appearances were playing in the park, and their parents enjoyed time spent leisurely under the tent. My son volunteered for the event, and I went around to meet the special people who organized it.
Lee Wang-jun, chairman of Myongji Hospital at Kwandong University College of Medicine, is the founder and current vice president of the association. He has been providing medical services to migrants since the mid 1990s. Now he is a man of wealth and success, but his philosophy and attitude remain unchanged.
“Offering money is the easiest, and offering physical help is in the middle. The hardest is offering mental support,” he told me. Yet he has been providing financial, physical and mental support to people in need for 20 years.
Hyundai Motor has also been helping out by providing 250 million won ($219,750) to 270 million won every year to the project for nine years. The health association’s current director, Kim Jeong-wu, said that many lives have been saved thanks to the constant support of Hyundai Motor.
Eighteen years ago, the stench of Nanjido wafted across the river on a daily basis. But thanks to the amazing natural resilience of the ecosystem, Nanjido has been reborn as a park. The makeover was supported by the government’s continued endeavors to improve the city’s shabby ecology over the past decade.
In much the same way, the first multicultural immigrants began coming to Korea about 20 years ago. Today, the second generation of migrants is growing up in Korea. Just like the ecosystem, with proper support and assistance, they are becoming another blessing that enriches Korean society with their innate natural resilience. Constant efforts to improve and grow stronger will certainly pay off.
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Na-ree