“My schedule is jammed with people I need to meet, books I have to read, and presentations I need to prepare and so on,” Han said.
This year, she is not only a lecturer at Ewha but also a member of the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, a consultant for Korea International Cooperation Agency, and a principal of World Citizenship School. Han is considered second among the most popular figures whom Ewha students deemed as their role model in 2009.
Persuaded by professor Kim Eun-mee (International Studies)’s repeated request for Han to give lecture at Ewha, Han is now in charge the first half of the International Development Cooperation course held once a year.
Han teaches about emergency relief work and global poverty every Wednesday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. It is the first time for her to teach as a professor and Ewha is the first university to host a lecture on both international development and international cooperation. Han is in charge of the first eight weeks of this semester’s lecture. Han decided to start her class at 8:00 a.m. to teach only students who are passionate enough to come to school early in the morning.
“I feel like I am surrounded by my fan club when I am teaching students,” Han said.
“I feel a lot of energy when I look into the twinkling eyes of my students in eagerness to learn.”
To vividly teach about various situations in disaster areas, Han once led her class wearing vests of emergency relief workers.
“I made students experience a typical day of a refugee by sleeping on the floor with a small blanket, drinking a bottle of water and have a powder of mixed grains for food. I hope students realize more about how people in the other ‘rooms’ on this small house called ‘earth’ live in my class,” Han said.
Before becoming an emergency relief expert, Han lived a life that was little different from other people. Born in 1958, Han was the third daughter of four siblings, whom her father loved most. Han’s late father, who was a journalist, was the one who made her think “one should never give up before trying,” which helped her to be confident even though she went to university six years later than other people. The “never give up” spirit eventually led her to travel around the world at the age of 35 after quitting her career as a successful public relations expert.
“Travelling the world, I was fascinated to see and walk around the places that I have never seen before,” Han said.
“Most importantly, I could see how the world is small and connected to one another and that I belong to not only Korea but also to the world. I call this idea ‘world citizenship.’”
After completing her travels of 93 countries during a span of seven years, Han decided to become an emergency relief worker in the World Vision, a non-governmental organization.
“One scene remains imprinted my heart after the travel—a girl from Afghanistan who was injured after stepping on a landmine,” Han said.
“She wanted to ‘share’ her small piece of bread with me. I wanted to do what I could to help people in the world who can live in a much better environment with Korean money of 1,000 won or 2,000 won.”
As a result, Han worked as an emergency relief worker from 2001 to July 2009. After studying science of emergency relief at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, she now spends half of the year in Korea teaching Ewha students and doing emergency relief activities and the other half abroad helping people directly in disaster areas.
Han advises Ewha students to have their own “root of thinking” to live their lives doing what they truly want.
“I find university students often wavering between what their parents force them to do and what they want to do,” Han said.
“I think people can never know what they can do unless they try what they want to do first. I hope Ewha students could spend enough time on finding who they are, by reading books, keeping journals, travelling to somewhere else, and so on.”