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

Connect Coffee Roasters

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It is 10.00 a.m. Joshua and I hop into the Riverfront building – off the riverside drive road, along Chiromo area Nairobi Kenya. The building houses a couple of other valuable companies. Uber-the taxi app is one of them. We are not here for them though. We are here for their neighbor, the opposite facing coffee house. As we amble along the marble pavement, the marvel that meets the eye is pleasantly surprising. It starts with the jutting plants that sway gently at the morning breeze right at the entrance, the café like set-up that opens up as you reach for a seat, the tempting glass cases with decadent treats and a lure of grey and white decor.

The transparent glass walls capture the idyllic; of waiters weaving between the tables, picking orders and serving accordingly. The music is soft. The calming painting and art on the wall is beautiful enough to hold your gaze, as well as the splendid combo of rustic artsy themes and the well curated dining space which is stuff of high art.

‘Welcome to Connect Coffee Roasters,’ says Mr. Duncan Busuru, the calm coffee shop Manager who is as warmly and friendly as are the resident baristas.

The sun is rising. Four ladies are seated at a table some few meters away engaged in a meeting. Adjacent, sits a Caucasian lad buried in a mac. Duncan notices my gaze and responds with clarity, ’we have flexible sockets and strong Wi-Fi. You can work from here as you nurse your favorite flavor.’  ‘There is room for corporate meetings, art events, exhibitions and business meetings,’ he adds. From this customer ensemble that bellies a mix of races, it bespeaks their target group; expatriates, middleclass and the upper, with the majority residing and working in the Westlands and Kileleshwa areas.

Three cups of coffee with milk are brought our way and I am instantly curious to know more about the menu. As I indulge Duncan, he tells me about the varied brewed coffees, the special brewed tea and the juices that range from orange grape fruits, apple carrot to strawberry latte. To crown a hot sunny afternoon one can snack  their palatable icecream, the Almond Affogato. As revealed from a number of top local restaurant critics, their waffle is the best in town. But with a disclaimer though; you can’t wolf it down in an instant. It is really huge. Perhaps the gist of this discussion comes to their in-house signature blends of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo, a dark roast with caramel and nutty flavors is a blend of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda coffee. On the other hand, Juliet the mild roast with fruit and flowery flavors is a blend of Kenyan and Ethiopian  coffee. There is retail coffee to boost for those who would want to take the experience home. The coffees on sale include the Romeo blend, Juliet blend, Kenyan, Ethiopian, Rwandese, the Romeo blend cold brew and the Juliet blend cold brew, with prices ranging from Kes 800 to Kes 3,200.

The uniqueness does not end at that. There is more.

You want your coffee fresh? Three brewing techniques are at disposal to give you this experience; Kalita, Chemex and Espro Press. Kalita is Japanese, bringing a balanced form of coffee. Chemex, a US way of preparation comes mouth filled. Espro-press, which comes close to its sister French Press, comes with a fine texture. It has a twin feel of rustic and modern, with a sort of sophisticated finish, oozing an urban vibe with plenty of white, grey and black hues.

The Start

About 11 months ago the proprietors Mr. Chris Hwang and his wife Ms. Sunny Park, Republic of Korea natives, braved it up and placed their eyes to Africa. The birth of this adventure gave way to a  coffee venture that has re-defined the everyday operations of a typical coffee house. It is premised on unique operating models: connecting with farmers, connecting with customers and eventually with people. The first model explains their partnership with farmers. They support the farmers by contributing farm inputs, facilitating cultivation training and monitoring and evaluation, then end up purchasing the harvested coffee at better market prices.  Through this they have  ensured that the coffee that reaches their restaurant is original and that customers get to have a much more fresh experience. ‘Through our direct sourcing and the onsite roasting , we strive to be as transparent as possible with our customers,’ says Duncan. Currently, their pilot farms are in Kiambu in Gatundu South.

To  fortify relationships with customers, the restaurant started coffee brewing classes at the beginning of this year. In these classes, customers are run through the basics of brewing. They are first taken through the farmer story (the cultivation, support, growth and harvest), then the seed to cup model that explains how Connect Coffee sources, process and finally extracts its coffee. Each session takes two hours and only six people are allowed to sign up. On average, the classes happen thrice in a month.

It might look rosy but then, like a normal business challenges are there too. First, finding the right mold of farmers is quite hard. The challenge lies in finding consistent passionate farmers. Another issue has to do with the changing climate patterns such as the increase in surface temperatures that affects the quality of coffee. However, with every waking challenge they have been quick to tackle and used them as a learning experience.

The Future

As far as Menu expansion is concerned, the restaurant is not keen on expanding much like other thriving coffee houses . “Our goal is to specialize in coffee and be the best. We want to be the one stop coffee shop for fresh coffee in the city,’’ says the Manager as the Director Mr. Chris Hwan looks on, and nods in tandem.  They intend to set up a coffee academy that offers the best training for baristas. This will help in posting competent baristas to the different upmarket franchises that they would have opened. They also intend to expand the number of small scale coffee farmers.

 

 

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Mr. Daniel Juma’s Passion For Korea.

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With such an easy smile and warm personality, Mr. Juma comes across as a person who can get along with anyone. Beneath that accommodating demeanor sits a large heart that has enough room for everyone. It is no doubt he is the Kenya Country Director of the Global Peace Foundation, an organization that prides in promoting innovative, values-based approach to peacebuilding across the globe.

Alongside his family –the wife and two kids, Henry and Regina, Korea holds a special place in his heart. Bring up a conversation on Korean peninsula and Juma will engage  you with refined alacrity. He listens to Psy and SHINee and previously enjoyed the Korean zombie apocalypse blockbuster ‘Train to Busan’. Once in a while he will nip into a Korean restaurant for a plate of samgyeopsal and Bulgogi. He admires their culture from the work ethic, their level of discipline, filial piety and the respect they have for superiors. “Surprisingly, a Korean boss  can berate you but at the end of the day, he/she will buy you a drink and you will get along. Koreans don’t hold grudges,” he adds.

How It all Started

It falls back to 1995 when he made a Korean friend while on tour in Japan who would later invite him  to Korea. At that time he was a Business Administration student at Kenya Polytechnic (now Technical University of Kenya). Visiting  his new Korean friend in 1997, he would end up staying for a year, working in MOKPO as a welder at a ship-building company while privately tutoring English. It is during this period that he was first immersed into Korean culture, learning the language basics  and local cultural practices; traits that served to his favor when he was easily hand picked for a job at KOTRA Nairobi office some few years later.

Meeting a potential Korean investor to Kenya changed Juma’s fate. He went to Manila, Philippines to learn about car importation business, only to be posted to Germany  where he worked and enrolled for East Asian studies at Duisberg university. Six months into it, he would then travel to Kenya to apply for a visa but never returned after losing his documents at the airport. However, while mooching about the city he bumped into Kotra-Nairobi offices. From here his life took a different turn.

Working At KOTRA

“Being considered for a volunteer position at Kotra worked on a whim. I walked  into the then director’s office, Mr. Won Sok Yun (now the Vice President of KOTRA), and he was  way impressed that I could speak Korean and exercise a few cultural practices like bowing to seniors.’ ….’I caught wind of this coming business delegation at Safari Park hotel and was invited  to volunteer for a few days.’ As we know now, the few days translated to 11 years. That was in 2000. He rose from  that volunteer position to an intern, transitioned  to a trade officer and then ended up as an Assistant Manager in charge of Trade and Investment promotion, a position  he would hold until his last days at Kotra.

“Working at KOTRA was one of those formative periods in my career if I can look back. I had learnt  about the Korean culture and could speak  basic Korean. It was therefore easy to work with Koreans.’…’The fact that I loved my job was really instrumental. I never left the office  at 5. I could leave around 8 or 9 at night, and I loved it.’ Juma zealously worked to build Korea’s economic diplomatic foray into the East African region. He learnt and exercised the rigors  of economic diplomacy. His  fruits would come to  bear when the trade  imports from Korea  to Kenya rose during the peak of his tenure. As if that was not enough to enhance his diplomacy skills  he enrolled for  international relations at the Institute of Diplomacy and International  Studies at the University of Nairobi, where  he did a thesis  entitled “Kenya’s Foreign Policy Shift from Political to Economic Diplomacy” in which he gave policy recommendations that led to the transformation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to what is now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In 2011, he would hung his boots at Kotra for another venture. But his love for Korea never fizzled out.

Dream For The Unification of Korea

Juma has been one of those consistent voices  vouching for the re-unification of the Korean Peninsula. ‘A united Korea will be one of the strongest economies, surpassing the likes of Japan and China.’ ‘Picture the unexploited human resources in North Korea, the labor force from the North (who are educated in their own right), the ambitious South Korea and the opportunity to do more investments in the North. That gets to tell you something..” He recommends the book The Korean Dream  by Dr. Hyun Jin Moon, which offers a more authoritative and compelling  argument for a united Korea.

Alongside his boss, the Founder and Chairman of the Global Peace Foundation, the mentioned Dr. Moon , and the entire GPF team they organised a campaign in Manilla inviting Korean pop singers to create awareness of this unification call. In 2015, he travelled to Seoul with the NASA leader Raila Odinga, accompanied by the Kisii Governor Mr Evans Ongwae and Turkana Governor Josephat Nanok. It was one of the platforms  he used to rally  the re-unification whilst convincing the Kenyan leaders to borrow from the Korean model of development. They visited Saemaul Undong centre and held meetings with Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) officials and Korea International Trade Association President.

He labels the separation between the two Koreas as a global humanitarian issue that needs the approach that solved apartheid in S. Africa. Despite having hope, he is saddened by the thought that the world cares little.

Enrolling For Korean Studies

In 2013, the University of Nairobi established a Korean Studies center with the support of the Korean Foundation  and the Academy of Korean Studies. It was not an afterthought for Juma despite being accomplished. Right away he enrolled for a BA degree in Korean Studies.’I didn’t enroll in order to better my chances of getting a job,’ he notes with a stiffled laugh.’I did it for the love of Korea. I wanted to sharpen  my Korean language speaking skills and be an expert in this area,’ he adds. The journey , however, has not been easy. As an Executive Director  he has alot on his plate. Additionally, he has  a family to tend to. All those commitments leave him with little time to study. However, he is quick to appreciate his supportive Korean language lecturer Prof Yuhjin Park. ‘She’s very understanding and practical.’

Asked about the current relations between Korea and Kenya, Mr.Juma lowers his head and goes into reflective mood. He is dissappointed about the infiltration of cheap Chinese products in the Kenyan market when you have Korean products that are of good quality. He mentions the current Standard Gauge Railway project (SGR) that was to be won by KORAIL (Korea Railroad Corporation) but ended up with the Chinese. He is certain that KORAIL  would have done a good job.  He hopes  that engagements  between Korea and Kenya  grow. ”You’re better off partnering with Koreans. Besides making profit, they will educate you,’ he notes.

‘With your widened experience in diplomacy, would you consider going for an Ambassador position sometime in future?’ I implore.”Why not? “he responds with a chuckle. As it looks, he still burns with ambition.