postedSep 04, 2013

[Korea Focus] Nepalese immigrant Worker Realizes Korean Dream

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Nepalese immigrant Worker Realizes Korean Dream


Ha Do-gyeom

National Folk Museum of Korea

The National Folk Museum of Korea opened a speakers program this year for international regional experts to address public officials. In the first half of the series, week-long educational sessions on Asia and Europe were conducted. Sessions on Africa/Middle East and America/Oceania are scheduled for the latter half.  Among the guest speakers was a 38-year-old Park Roy. His speech on the Himalayan country of Nepal, on April 18, received ecstatic applause from the attending 80-odd public officials.


Park Roy is named after his wife`s surname. Roy is an English name he used while working as an English instructor in Korea. His Nepalese original name is Dawa Sherpa. “Sherpa” means “people from the East” and “Dawa” refers to a person born on Monday in Nepalese. Dawa Sherpa is a very common name in Nepal. He was born in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, on May 23, 1978 as the second boy among two sons and one daughter. When he was a child, an ordinary family couldn`t pay much attention to children`s education in Nepal, a developing country which is still receiving aid from the international community.


Fortunately, Roy`s middle-class parents had extraordinary enthusiasm for education and had their children finish the best schools in Nepal. Thanks to his parents, after graduating from the Dipendra Police Boarding High School in Nepal, where he was a football player of the school, he was able to study at the Department of Business Administration of the prestigious University of Delhi in India, a privilege reserved only for the upper class of Nepal.


While studying in India, he met his wife in 2001 while backpacking and got married in 2003. The next year, he came to Korea on the advice of his wife and was naturalized as a Korean citizen in 2006. He has been living in Seoul for eight years. Even though he has graduated from a prestigious university and is a foreign language expert who speaks five languages including Nepalese, English, Indian, Korean and Pakistani, he had to do anything available to earn a living. Jobs he had in the past eight years range from selling Nepalese souvenirs to teaching English at private institutes and elementary students after school.


He has briefly worked at an information booth for foreigners of the Immigration Office as a foreign-language counselor and the Nepalese Embassy in Seoul as an administrative clerk in charge of labor issues, but these were not stable jobs. Indeed, while a lot of foreigners are acquiring Korean nationality every year, most of them find landing a stable job as hard as plucking stars from the sky. I believe the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family should come up with more measures for married immigrant men who have families to support.


Park is the only man who was employed as a contract worker by the Industrial Bank of Korea through its first open recruitment for members of multicultural families in Korea. He got the job through competition that had 7:1 odds of winning. He was immensely grateful to the bank for saving him from the brink and was able to expand the wings of his dreams again that had been left folded. “Migrant workers still face prejudices. If you become more open-minded, Korea would become a better country,” he said wishfully.


While working at the IBK`s West Yeoido branch for the past year, he has succeeded in opening 2,000 new accounts every month. Incoming foreign industrial trainees, including those from Nepal, can see him at their training program, which lasts three days at the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Businesses. Sympathizing with them over the difficulties they face in Korea and going anywhere to help resolve their problems, he became friends with the migrant workers, who gladly became his clients.


Park`s nine-year-old son also has a peaceful school life without experiencing any discrimination. But he said that he feels sad because his son and children of his Nepalese friends speak only in Korean at home and have no understanding of Nepal`s language and culture.


While serving as an instructor at a project named “The Korean Dream Implanted in Nepal,” hosted by NamasteKorea, a private non-profit organization, under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Security and Public Administration, last year, Park stressed the need to teach the children of multicultural families the native language and culture of their immigrant parents.


His suggestion has borne fruit as the NamasteKorea`s program for the children from multicultural families has received a funding from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family this year. It was also thanks largely to his efforts that a “Nepalese cultural school” opened at Beomnyun Temple, the administrative headquarters of the Korean Buddhist Taego Order, the nation`s second largest Buddhist denomination.


In the IBK`s personnel reshuffle conducted on July 11, Park became a fifth-grade regular worker. It is extremely rare for a contract worker to gain regular staff status in 15 months. Park has demonstrated outstanding performances in international business, including arranging an exchange transaction with the Nepal Investment Bank. He expressed his hope to work at IBK`s Indian branch and help more Korean small- and medium-sized companies to advance into the Indian market.
Park recalls with a bitter smile that he failed to get a contract worker position at the Seoul Metropolitan Government`s support center for foreigners a few years ago. Among those employed at that time was Lee Jasmine, a Filipino woman who was elected to the National Assembly last year as a proportional representative the ruling Saenuri Party. “Just imagine if I got that job,” Park said jokingly.


Lee Jasmine is a dream-come-true of foreign migrant workers in Korea. The presence of Lee who acquired Korean nationality in 1998, eight years earlier than Dawa Sherpa, makes me feel proud in that she represents Korea as a woman leader along with the nation`s first female president.


The “Multicultural Package,” a research project to address social problems stemming from a rise in the multicultural families in Korea, which the National Folk Museum launched in 2009 with a program about Mongolia, has been expanded to cover Vietnam, the Philippines and Uzbekistan. Especially, the “Package for Korea” which was completed this year, is drawing a lot of interest since it is effectively utilized in overseas public relations activities.


Lee Eun-mi, the museum`s curator and one of chief organizers of the project, affectionately dubbed the “moving mini magic box,” said she was grateful to Jasmine Lee for her enthusiastic participation as an instructor in spite of her busy schedule.


It is heartwarming to see a large number of foreign immigrants who have come to Korea for work, marriage or other reasons stand on their own two feet in Korea. However, it still is a pity that Korea, with half a dozen political parties and more than 300 National Assembly members, has only one lawmaker who represents immigrants. I am looking forward to the day when the immigrants become the leaders of Korean society and contribute to making Korea a clearer and brighter community.

[ Newsis, July 19, 2013 ]

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