Wooriwa forms truly welcoming and understanding community
Wooriwa forms truly welcoming and understanding community
  • Oh Seo-jin
  • 승인 2013.03.14 20:20
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Wooriwa offers an opportunity for the foreigners to participate in activities unique to Korea. Photo provided by Wooriwa.

The glance that never betrays the mind shines off a look of distrust and fear of the unknown, as if it had detected an impending danger. It is not long before these wandering eyes with apparent nervousness find stability, rather a comfort, in the undoubted warmth of student companions, however. With glowing eyes, the once-alienated foreigners finally break free of cultural boundaries and submit, even for just a brief moment, to act as one, forming a commonality with one another.
Wooriwa, meaning “with us” in Korean, is a group consisting of, managed and run purely by Korean university students.With determination and passion rare for their age, they devote much effort to introduce and further promote Korean culture to foreigners.Its ultimate goal is to form an active community entirely by their own hands.
The group distinguishes itself from others through its unique and meaningful activities that foreigners find fascinating.
“All the projects are designed to give an opportunity for university students and foreigners to actively interact and develop a profound understanding of one another,” said Kim Han-seul (Hongik University, 4), the head manager of Wooriwa.
In its annual event called “Gyeonggi Ro” meaning “To Gyeonggi province” in Korean, the greatest number of foreigners and students, approximately 100, attended. With teams of 10, they travel around the area for a week, accomplishing missions upon arriving at famous sites.
“We had such a fun and meaningful time doing all the activities and in the end eating together,” said Kim Yu-jin (KAIST, 4), one of the participants. “I felt much closer to all the participants after just one event.”
Other unique events include “Wooriwa Olympics,” a program much similar to so-called uen-dong-hwae (Korean field day), that takes place at a university’s sports field, “Rural Activity Volunteering Project,” in which participants obtain a first-hand experience on performing agricultural works, and “Pop-up Event,” where the group takes smaller-scaled trips to amusement parks and festivals.
Kim says these projects retain their true value in that they immensely benefit both the Korean university students and foreigners.
“For Korean students, courage, a greatly cherished and respected characteristic, can be acquired by approaching foreigners and initiating conversations despite their relative language inadequacy,” Kim said. “Foreign students, the greatest beneficiary, have a meaningful opportunity to become assimilated into Korean community through which they experience, learn, and possibly accept a previously remote culture.”
Behind Wooriwa’s accomplishments lie the staff members’ pain-staking efforts, unwavering will and devotion.Approximately 15 administrative staff members on average in a year’s worth of term are divided into two different divisions, “Planning Committee” and “Foreign Relations and Development Committee.”
While the Planning Committee devises activity plans that foreign students have had seldom chance to experience, the Foreign Relations and Development Committee focuses on recruiting participants and sending financial support requests to companies.
As mere university students, however, receiving financial aid was an arduous task.
“We had to send requests to prodigious number of enterprises,” Kim said. “Even after we received an approval, reaching a compromise at a satisfying sum was difficult.”
Although frequently faced with financial difficulties, the group strictly adheres to their principle, so-called “public enterprises over private ones” preference.
“We prefer to send financial requests mostly to public enterprises instead of private ones and only on occasions we go on costly, lengthy trips such as ‘Gyeonggi Ro,’” Kim said.
Recruiting foreigners, especially foreign exchange students, proved to be extremely demanding as they return to their home countries merely after a few months in Korea.
“To attract as many as we can, we even advertised Wooriwa by literally talking foreigners into it in the streets,” Kim said.
Their efforts have been rewarded, with as many as 30 foreigners attending an event and several others consistently attending most of them. Even 20 United States soldiers, hearing about Wooriwa, have participated.
“The approximate ratio of the participants for most of the events has now become seven to three, the seven representing Korean students and the three foreigners,” Kim said.
Since the majority of the participants are university students, no cumbersome participation fee is required.
“Fee below 50,000 won is all you need to participate in each event. Our only goal is to create an interacting community; we try to achieve that with the minimum amount of money,” Kim said.

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