Ewha students might be curious about the new faces they see at places of Ewha this spring semester. Among them, a boy wearing rubber gloves and collecting dishes at Helen Hall Cafeteria, named Lee Su-ho (21), is one of the five newly employed workers with intellectual disabilities.
Ewha is the first Korean college to hire people with intellectual disabilities in January this year. The move was part of the Ewha's new employment project with Korea Employment Promotion Agnecy for the Disabled (KEPAD), a state-run organization that helps provide more job opportunities for the disabled. KEPAD, founded in 1990 by the Labor Ministry, has been coordinating various employment programs for the disabled in private and public sectors.
Lee Su-ho and other four new employees, Park Jong-min (25), Park Seo-hee (23), Lee Jung-ik (22) and Lee Jin-kyong (23), have been working at several school installations, including the Main Library, an office in the Education Building B, the Helen Hall Cafeteria and the Fitness Center at Ewha Campus Complex (ECC). Their duties vary depending on where they work, from cleaning gyms and sorting out mail to re-shelving books at a library. Each works four hours a day, Monday to Friday.
Beginning in August, 2008, the five new employees went through an intensive six-month training program designed to help them adjust to the workplace, since this is their first employment. In order to learn about their responsibilities, and ease their transition to a working environment, they trained at their current place of employment twice a week for two hours.
"I am amazed at Jin-kyong's enthusiasm in the work place. She works hard by doing exactly what she has to do. It is good that we can share the workload together," said Lee Ji-hye (Physical Education, Graduate School) who works at the ECC Fitness Center with one of the five new employees, Lee Jin-kyong.
The most excited people are those five new employees who have the opportunity to work and earn a living.
"Working at Ewha is quite fun. All my other colleagues who were also hired at this time encourage me to do well," said Lee Su-ho, who works at the Helen Hall Cafeteria.
"My parents compliment me for doing fine at work. I have never come late for work. It is good that I could get a job just after my graduation from high school last week," said Lee.
Not only the employees, but also the Office of Welfare Service, is happy for the job opportunity Lee got.
"At first, I was concerned about the working environment because there are dangerous elements like fire and knives in a cafeteria kitchen," said Park Hyun-sook (Office of Welfare Service). "After the training, Su-ho learned how to work well and safely."
Since the new employees are working at school, it is important that students and the five employees work together to make a harmonious environment.
"What I was most worried about was the reaction of Ewha students. I was afraid that they might find it uncomfortable to see him in the cafeteria which they use so often," said Park.
After working for a couple of months, however, the result has been positive. According to Park, students do not regard him as someone to be afraid of or express any discrimination against him.
"As a result, Su-ho can commit himself fully to his work and I would like to thank students for it since he could gain confidence," said Park.
Professor Park Seung-hee (Special Education) who promoted this program with KEPAD is also satisfied with the outcome.
"To help those with intellectual disabilities adjust well to the work, there must be well-coordinated efforts among the co-workers, while adequate salaries and ongoing supports should also be provided," said Park. "All of these factors are well provided for this program."
Students are also supportive regarding the employment of five people with intellectual disabilities.
"I think both the intellectually disabled workers and the students of Ewha will learn from each other. Through becoming a role model for other universities, I am expecting a transition in students' prejudicial views against people with intellectual disabilities. Workers will gain self-confidence and live fruitful lives," said Yun Eun-jung (Life Science, 4).