Joy Mworia: Chairing the Kenya Community in Korea

  1. Kindly introduce yourself.

“My name is Joy Clara Mworia, and I’m the current Chairperson of the Kenya Community in Korea. I have been in Korea for three years, two and a half as a graduate student at Pukyong National University and currently an English tutor. I am an outgoing person who enjoys meeting new people of different cultures and finding ways to help my fellow Kenyans in Korea feel at home far away from home.

  1. You replaced Dr. Benson Kamary as the new Kenya Community in Korea Chairperson. Tell us about that and what it meant to you (the fact that Kenyans in Korea had trust in you to pick you as their new leader).

I must confess that Kamary left some big shoes to fill. I was privileged to have known Kamary personally and worked with him in several occasions even before joining KCK as active members. We both went to Daystar University and happened to have resided in the same city, Busan, in Korea.

  1. What inspired you to vie for this position and what do you hope to achieve.

As an active member of Busan KCK chapter and later a member of the regional executive, I was able to find inspiration and also a calling to be part of KCK leadership. I must say that it is the togetherness of Kenyans in Korea that was a motivating factor. Kamary’s team transformed KCK with structures that enables leadership function even more smoothly.

  1. Please tell us a little about KCK .

Kenyan Community in Korea was founded in March 2007. Since then the community gradually transformed itself towards an organized association with leadership structure and a comprehensive constitution. It was until 2011 when new leadership transformed KCK into a professionally organized community by institutionalizing its various leadership and communication functions.

KCK is organized exclusively to provide a source for networking, promote success of members and advance the Kenyan values in Korea. The organization may undertake to publicize events and activities organized by its membership.

  1. Highlight some of the milestone achievements that KCK has so far achieved ever since it was started.

The list is endless, but just to mention;

  • Published “The Big Book”; a collection of academic papers by KCK members.
  • Strengthened the Regional Branches by recognizing leaders and their committees.
  • Created KCK brochures (downloadable from KCK website) to be sent to Korean Embassy in Nairobi etc.
  • Amended constitution to introduce Governing Council (KCK Exec, Regional Leaders; and Students Body and Professionals/Business as Ex-Officios)
  • Strengthened KCK-Embassy collaborations & Coordination (e.g. exhibitions, scholarships information, etc.)
  • Created a healthy financial status for KCK from an inherited debt to over 1 Million Won through out the leadership term.
  • Expanded registration by almost 100 new members
  • Facebook membership grew from 640 to over 1000
  • Record breaking numbers in all major KCK events (over 70 in Tujuane Fest in Cheonan, 200 in Busan Retreat, etc.)
  • For the first time branded KCK events with KCK T shirts (this will go on with customized regional color-codes e.g. Busan-Red, Daegu-Green, Seoul Blue etc)
  • Initiated establishment of Diaspora Alliance (Asia Chapter) with KIJA (Kenyans in Japan) and Kenyans in China. Ongoing process.
  • Built KCK profile and image as evidenced by growing interest to join KCK and also in leadership position. KCK is becoming competitive.
  • Initiated a process of appointing Honorary Ambassadors from outstanding Korean KCK members to strengthen KCK-Korea socio-cultural and organizational interactions.
  • Introduced “KCK Official Seal” as the official stamp for KCK documents/ recommendations and certificates.
  • Created and launched the KCK Official Website
  • Collected comprehensive data of Kenyans in Korea
  • Conducted leadership SWOT analysis to strengthen service delivery
  1. What are some of the challenges that you face (as KCK).

– The fact that KCK is not yet registered, we can’t take our conversation/engagement officially to the government of Kenya or Korea.

– Geographically, some places in Korea has only one or two Kenyans and so it is a challenge including everyone in the activities.

  1. I believe that most of the KCK members are scattered across the country. How are you able to maintain that closeness and sense of unity as a community, and most importantly as a family.

We have been active in our communication, which is one of the key pillars that Kamary’s team established. We have increased our presence in the social media, we have a website and a blog, as well as email and brochures. Beyond that, we believe that Kenyans are the primary ambassadors of KCK in terms of making the organization known to everyone. Our goal is to have any Kenyan coming to Korea to know we exist even before they take the flight here. By the way that has begun to happen.

  1. Most Kenyans I know based in Korea are into studies. Is there any other category of Kenyans engaged in something else other than studies?

Yes, we have Kenyans who are professionals and are working in various professions, lecturing, company, and business. We are also seeing a growing number of cross-cultural marriages between Kenyans and Koreans.

How do you relate with the Kenyan Embassy in Korea. Don’t your roles overlap? How supportive have they been?

We work closely. The relationship has grown to be very cordial and we see each other as working toward the same goal – seeking the best wellbeing and success for Kenyans in all areas they are involved in. We are blessed to have a great Ambassador and embassy staff who participate in KCK’s events and integrate with Kenyans at various levels.

What is your dream for the future of KCK.

That KCK be a model of Kenyan diaspora community. That we will be a voice of hope, patriotism, resilience and beacon of prosperity in all we do as international  students or professionals.

 

The Fun of Learning a Foreign Language

“Hallo”… It could be the simplest way to start conversations. It works for me. Always. There is fun in knowing new people. Talking to them makes it feel that my world has expanded a little. It is never the same.

Growing up I really marveled at the world. It started with the mundane of thoughts; how big it was, how many people were in and how many existing cultures were there for an individual to experience if he/she wanted to. Well, reflecting on this last thought it is basically inexhaustible in a lifetime. I mean 5 continents, 196 countries, 6500 languages, 7 billion people. It left me with a fascination at how much my world could grow.

Being the adventurous type, I took a liking for the Asian culture and started watching their documentaries, shows and music. It was fun but I couldn’t understand the languages. Therefore I took the plunge to learn an Asian language and that is how I got into learning Korean language, which is quite interesting.

Korean is quite different from English.It has its own alphabet and pronunciations. The first Korean class was more like going back to kindergarten to learn the basics. It was a funny and ridiculous one, because as our lecturer intoned,our prowess levels were close to that of 6 year olds back in Korea. We learnt how to pronounce and write the vowels and consonants, then progressed to simple vocabulary, to sentences and finally to paragraphs. This took us 4 months at the end of which speaking was still a challenge but manageable.

If you are into watching/reading, you know the satisfaction that comes with listening/noticing something from a movie or book and understanding the meaning. I like watching Korean Movies and I enjoy their sense of culture, so imagine my joy when I was watching and understood some word I had learnt without resorting to subtitles. It was amazing, magical. I felt like some kind of a genius.

Learning a new language helps in understanding the culture of a people. The world has many cultures, each unique and valuable. Cultures are portrayed in the cuisine, clothing, social habits, religion, music and art. All these are accessible from learning a language. Someone said, “Civilization isn’t a result of a single dominant culture but the product of mergers and interactions between diverse cultures, interacting enough to benefit from each other but not so much as to lose themselves in the other.” This is proven.A look at the best civilizations in the world shows that they derive their success from diversity. Americans have ties to almost all nations in the world either by ancestry or assimilation and were aware of their level of civilization. Down to my own experience, I learnt a lot from the Korean culture, my best being the unwavering work ethic. South Koreans really believe that hard work is worthy of reward and this says a lot given their claim of the 4th largest economy in Asia and the 11th largest in the world.

Additionally, learning a new language connects you to others that could be sharing the same interests. We all understand the feeling when you come across people who share your love for football or movies, or a theory you like. You can practically talk for hours. Such conversations are probably the most satisfying. It feels good to be understood. Which brings me to an experience I had with close friends, when I began learning Korean culture. I was surely an odd bird. They couldn’t understand why I did what I was doing. However, things changed when I walked into this class, with students excited to start learning Korean Studies. It has never been the same again. We are now a family. We challenge, teach and learn from one another. It is fun. We recently finished a 1000 piece puzzle that took us 10 days. We really treasure that puzzle and the memories it gave us. A year ago I never thought I could have friends who were fascinated with Korea as I am. Now I can say that if I travel to Seoul, I won’t be worried because my friends will be there to receive me. Or if I want to practice Korean I can just call a friend and chat hours on end. The possibilities are endless.

By Andreas Mutuku