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Migrant women in Korea helping others find their Korean dream Updated: 2019-07-16 16:23:56 KST

Helping foreign brides become more than a typical housewife.
That's the number one mission for Lee Ra, a Mongolian woman who was Korea's first-ever politician of foreign descent.
Having moved to the country 16 years ago, Lee says she feels more at home in her former constituency of Seognam than in Mongolia, being elected to the Gyeonggi-do Provincial Assembly in 2010.

"I'd never even dreamt of being a politician back in Mongolia, but suddenly in Korea, I was 33 years old, in office, working with budgets and representing the foreign population here."

She may have now left office, but she's sticking to her pledge of giving immigrants a voice through her organization, which supports women who moved to Korea through marriage.
Acknowledging the struggles they face in overcoming social and cultural barriers, and even cases of domestic violence, Lee aims to help migrant women become more independent and entrepreneurial.

"It's crucial for women to leave their homes, socialize and find sources of income. We're working with Seongnam City to train our women in medical tourism, so that they can turn their native language skills into a specialized profession."

When Won Ok-geum first moved to Korea with her husband in 1997, she felt trapped at home, unable to speak the language or develop a career.
She decided to challenge herself by learning interpretation skills and began helping other foreign wives communicate with their husbands by translating their letters in an online community.

""I felt the limitation of simple translations. I wanted to provide more practical support. So I began working with NGOs and became one of the first consultants on the Danuri emergency hotline for migrant women which has now expanded to 13 different languages."

Won is now a legal interpreter and a representative for the local Vietnamese community.

"Throughout the years, I saw how passionately and selflessly Korean activists fought for our rights as migrants. They showed me how I should and could do so much more for my own people, especially women."

Recognized for her efforts, Won was named Seoul's honorary mayor in 2016, a role she says she'll always strive to fulfill.

"Among the 130-thousand women who moved to Korea for marriage, a growing number are working to create the right social conditions to help their fellow migrants enjoy their rights to well-being, decent jobs and achieve their full potential here in Korean society.
Oh Soo-young, Arirang News."
Reporter : osy@arirang.com
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