|▲ Oh Ho-jin aims to speak up for the underprivileged people in society who are consistently neglected. Photo provided by Oh Ho-jin.
Merry Campaign, a social enterprise founded in 2014, plans and creates campaigns related to social change and cultural events.
The company follows the motto, “Make Merry,” which aims to present social changes through cultural contents to the public to ultimately reach for an equal society. Through campaigning, the company hopes to support the neglected in society and teach them to be more independent, including people who live alone, the disabled, those suffering from mental illnesses, and many more to be independent. They have organized musicals and cultural art contents that reflect social changes in society.
The company also provides educational programs in Seodaemun-gu on several fields, including single parenting classes, theater classes, media classes, calligraphy classes, and smartphone classes for single men in their 50s.
Ewha Voice took this opportunity to meet the director of Merry Campaign, Oh Ho-jin, to hear the story behind campaigning on viral issues.
“The company works to give a chance for the underprivileged and other people discriminated against in society to stand up and speak up for themselves,” Oh said. “For instance, we once hosted a campaign where single parents attended theater classes so that they could act out their stories to the public.”
When asked how Oh decided to open this company, she explained with two turning points in her life. “I once participated in the planning of the Korean movie ‘Marathon’ in 2005,” Oh said. “After the movie was released, I saw positive change in society in terms of how people viewed people with developmental disability. Then, I realized that through culture and art, people can convey a strong message that can make a huge difference in society.”
Followed by that, she organized a concert alongside famous Korean singer, Sean, that pushed for the building of a children’s rehabilitation hospital in South Korea. At that time, there were no children’s rehabilitation hospitals in the country. With the support of the concert, the first children’s rehabilitation hospital in the country was opened in Mapo-gu in 2016 by the Purme Foundation, and named, “Purme Hospital.”
These successes by Oh helped her realize that she wanted to do more for the underprivileged. Acting as the foundation for those to stand upon in society, she created Merry Campaign. One of Merry Campaign’s major works includes South Korea’s first legislative theater performance. The performance was planned with the ongoing campaign related to lawmaking, which came to an end successfully with two bills being passed.
“With the support from other NGOs, we aimed to create a legislative theater based on young single parents,” Oh said. “We met with members of the National Assembly, single parents, and lawyers to amend current laws towards single parents. With that, we got two bills passed, one in 2017 and the other in 2018.”
Oh also mentioned that after the two bills passed, there were many requests for Merry Campaign to take on more legislative matters. However, planning a legislative campaign was too much work, as well as being time consuming, for the company to do more.
Additionally, their most recent work was the 2018 Sinchon Alley Festival, where they planned a musical to commemorate the 100- year history of cultural and social changes of Sinchon’s alleys.
The musical “Sinchon, the Alley,” was about walking down the memory lane of Sinchon and Ewha. It was performed on Oct. 25 and 26 at Ewha 52nd Street and Oct. 31 at Changchun Culture Park.
The musical portrayed significant cultural, social, and political events in the past and recent years, including the June Democracy Movement in 1987, where Yonsei University students protested in Sinchon streets, and the Ewha Womans University protest calling for the resignation of the university dean in 2016.
The musical was performed by nine professional musical actors and a b-boy team that performed music loved by youth from the 1970s to the 2000s. More than 100 people joined in the streets to reminiscence on the memories of the city. As an event hosted by Merry Campaign, it was free-of-charge.
“When you look back at the 100- year history of Sinchon, there have been so many influential youths,” Oh said. “I wanted people to know the famous youth poet Yun Dongju, the key of the June Democracy Movement Lee Han-yeol, and Ewha’s candlelight rally because they played such a big role in our society. I therefore planned the musical to focus on them.”
As the interview was coming to an end, Oh wanted to say a few words to Ewha students.
“While planning the Sinchon festival, I was reminded of how incredible Ewha students were,” Oh said. “Many youths have a hard time looking for jobs, paying university fees, and studying. However, I just want to say do not be so tied up by grades and money. You are the makers of the future of Korea, so enjoy this moment. You are all very special people!”