▲ As well as offering support and advice for people foreigners of all nationalities, Jeju’s Multicultural Family Center also offers fun days out and training in a variety of skills such as computing, photography and even archery. All foreign residents are welcome to visit the center for information or to participate in their many events. Photos courtesy Jeju Multicultural Family Center
When English speakers on Jeju Island hear the Korean term “Wae-guk-en,” they may immediately assume that they are the subject of conversation. The English speaking community here may very well be the easiest of foreigners to spot in a crowd but they comprise only one section of the foreign community here on the island. Jeju has seen an immigrant population of Asian women from countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, and China continue to grow. After marrying Korean men, most of these foreign women move to Korea to start a family. In light of the rise in multicultural families on the island, the Multicultural Family Center has been established to bring these families together and help ease their transition to life in Korea.
For the second year in a row the Multicultural Family Center held a special festival to celebrate Chuseok, which combined Korean traditions with customs from the home countries of the foreign women. The festival began with an inspiring speech from the center’s founder, Oh Myung-chan, who is also a member of a multicultural family here in Jeju. Oh questioned the men in the audience: “Korean men, have you helped your wives a lot recently? You should, your wives are from other countries and they need your help, did you help them?” The Korean men in the audience either cheered, or looked shamefully to the floor.
After the speech, the festival continued by awarding prizes to immigrant woman who wrote essays in Korean. Women from Vietnam, the Philippines and China then performed dances authentic to their home countries; dressed in beautiful, brightly colored outfits from their homelands. After the dances, families set up different food booths, where attendees could sample delicious foods from various Asian counties. The festivities moved outside after once guests were full of tasty foreign treats. Attendees were invited to try their hand at archery, a sport greatly loved and valued in Korea. The celebrations wrapped up with Korean traditional-style wrestling called “ssireum”. The game is similar to Japanese Sumo wrestling, where two challengers stand inside a circle and try, with great strength, to push their opponent out of the circle. Certainly there were fun activities for all at this year’s Chuseok Festival at the Multicultural Family Center.
The center has only been open for two years and Oh has been rallying supporters and pushing for this center since 2007. It not only provides a place for multicultural families to meet and share experiences, it offers practical classes for immigrant wives and mothers to adapt to life in Korea. Arts and crafts classes such as dancing, cooking, balloon making, beads arts, and natural soap making, are offered at the center, as well as Korean classes for all levels, nearly every day of the week.
Free English classes for children are provided, as well as after-school tutoring services. Foreigners can also take computer program classes in PowerPoint and Excel. The center also offers free family photographs taken by a professional family photographer. The possibilities for learning a new skill or indulging a new interest are endless at the Multicultural Family Center. Nearly everyone working for the center is a volunteer, and most of them are members of a multicultural family.
The Jeju Multicultural Family center is located in Donam, Jeju City, and welcomes any foreigner with questions or an interest in finding out more. There many Filipino volunteers at the center, who speak perfect English.
More information about the Jeju Multicultural Family Center can be found at: http://www.multicultural.co.kr (Korean only), or by calling 064 727 2114
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