“On the bountiful Korean festival, we share love with the global family”

On September 10, 2008, with just a few days away from Chuseok the Korean harvest festival, a consolatory party was held for multicultural families at the Geomdan Welfare Center in Incheon city. Early morning on September 10, with just a few days away from Chuseok, a meaningful event was being prepared at the Geomdan Welfare Center in Incheon city. Every year, the IWF members delivere the warm and abundant love of a mother to our neighbors who feel lonelier on a national holiday. This year as well, they held a consolatory party for our lonely neighbors, greeting Chuseok.

The people who were invited to this party were multicultural families living in the cities of Incheon, Pyeongtaek, Kimpo and Bucheon. The statistics actually proves that Korea is a multi-ethnic, multicultural country because there are over one million foreigners living in Korea due to the rapid increase of international marriages, migrant workers, international students and so on. However, in reality the concept of one ethnicity prevails in Korean society, so Koreans are lacking in understanding and accepting multicultural families. The event was prepared to share the love with our neighbors even though they are different in skin color, language and customs because they are a valuable part of our society.

At noon, the ceremony progressed at the first floor of the Welfare Center. Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah encouraged the multicultural families through her welcome address, “Although it is difficult and lonely to live as aliens, we are all one family living in the boundary of earth, so I hope you will regard Korea as your second home and live a happy life by approaching your neighbors first and getting along well with them.” Lee Bae-geun, Chief Director of Korea Youth Service Center, who is also acting as the IWF Senior Advisor, introduced a Korean term, “Cousin Living Next Door,” which indicates one’s neighbor as close as his own family member. He expressed his hope, saying, “Through this event, I hope you will have a good time, receiving a mother’s love abundantly that the IWF members are presenting to you as cousins living next door even if we are not your physical family.”

Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah and Senior Advisor Lee Bae-geun handed out toys and gifts, which the IWF members prepared wholeheartedly, to the invited families respectively. They smiled brightly for the abundant gifts and were led to the dining room at the second floor.

Various kinds of food were set before them: Bulgogi, rice cake, fruit, chicken and vegetables mixed with black snail and so on. The multicultural families took seats together with the IWF members, and enjoyed the festive atmosphere and the love of a family, talking with each other. Besides delicious food, in the assembly hall opposite to the dining room the “Korean Tradition Experience Event” was held. Each traditional game corner was crowded with people playing: a shuttlecock game played with the feet, slap-match, and Too-ho, a game that requires throwing arrow-like sticks into an elongated metal container. They also tried on the traditional Korean wear “Hanbok,” and made souvenir buttons. The hall was filled with joyful laughter.

After learning how to bow in a Korean traditional attire, Aeae (27, from Thailand) said, “Now I’m ready to bow properly to my Korean in-laws.” Larju Carki (29, from Nepal) said, “Normally, a festival makes me sad and home sick, but now I’m happy, getting along with all these people. I would like to join this kind of voluntary service if it’s possible.” John (45, from USA) repeatedly said, “Wonderful, so good,” with his Korean wife. They all shared heartfelt love with each other. Even though they had different cultures and nationalities such as China, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, India, Japan, Mongolia and so on, this Chuseok seemed to be a rich festival for everyone.