Established in 2005, Dajung is a volunteer club at Ewha Womans University that teaches Korean to women and children in multicultural families. The name “Dajung” comes from the Korean word warm-heartedness. The club was originally formed to help migrant women whose rights were violated due to language barriers. Now a club of 25 volunteers, Dajung teaches Korean to children of these families as well, helping them become active participants in the Korean society.
“Not only migrant women but also their children have difficulties adjusting to life in Korea,” said Jang Se-jin (Psychology, 2), the representative of Dajung. “Born in Korea, they speak the language fluently. Still, their academic achievements are below those of their Korean counterparts. The kids that we teach have begun learning hangul at the age of six. Some of them haven’t learned Korean until school age and received poor grades at school. Our club helps children from ages six to eight prepare for school by teaching them basic reading and writing skills.”
Meanwhile, Dajung provides migrant women with individualized Korean lessons. Lessons on pronunciation and reading are taught for recipients interested in practical Korean and classes on grammar and vocabulary are held for those preparing for TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean).
“In Korea, immigrants are often required to have TOPIK certificates in order to apply for a job. It is rewarding to see women pass TOPIK with our help and earn a living,” Jang said.
In addition to visiting the families’ houses every week to teach them Korean, Dajung hosts cultural events every month. These events facilitate exchange between multicultural families that could feel lonely and anxious living in a foreign country. The activities also provide opportunities for them to experience Korean culture and gain a positive image of the country.
“The entire family including the parents, children and sometimes their grandparents participate in the cultural activities,” Jang remarked. “Last year, we hosted events such as sports day, pottery making and foreign food fairs. At first, the children were nervous about making pottery as they have never done it before. But soon, they became excited with smiles on their faces and said they were looking forward to more cultural events in the future.”
Jang mentioned that seeing multicultural families satisfied with the cultural events makes Dajung eager to host them throughout the year. Though managing both schoolwork and community service is difficult, watching kids waiting for them every week makes the experience fulfilling and hard to give up.
“The round trip to the families’ homes takes two to three hours,” Jang said. “This can be extremely stressful during the school year. Nevertheless, seeing the families welcoming us each time and becoming impressed by the small events we hold fuels our passion.”
Teaching Korean and hosting cultural events are only a part of the work done by Dajung. The members constantly check their progress through weekly meetings. They introduce their mentees and their level of language to the rest of the members, share ideas about the optimal way to teach each student and prepare materials for the upcoming classes. They also invite professionals on Korean grammar in order to learn about grammar rules that can be confusing to even native speakers.
“We always deliberate over how to teach,” Jang said. “We contemplate how to convey our messages effectively, check the level of our vocabulary and think about ways to make lessons entertaining for the children.”
This year, every applicant to Dajung had to share their idea of a multicultural society during the interview. One student said that the multicultural society is a place where all cultures are accepted as cultures. Members of Dajung agreed hoping that Korea would become the multicultural nation they currently claim to be.
“The families are our friends and life without them would be unimaginable,” Jang remarked. “We feel responsible for representing a good image of Korea and want them to be treated equally like other Koreans. Breaking the language barrier is the first step towards equality.”