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Supporting North Korean Refugees
The Work and Vision of the Girls' Friendly Society's U-Mul-Ga (Well Side) Project in South Korea

Last year (2010) was a critical time for the Girls' Friendly Society, U-Mul-Ga Project to set up its major business and activities. U-MulGa (Well Side) is a project that helps women refugees from North Korea (N.K.) to get settled into South Korean society. Due to extreme poverty in N.K., a large number of N. Korean people have been leaving their country and are now living across Asia as refugees. Those who have managed to come to S. Korea have difficulties in adjusting to their new land because of financial, emotional, and health issues as well as children's education in the very different life style they find in South Korea. There are approximately 20,000 N.K. defectors in South Korea and 80% of them are women. So GFS/Korea submitted its proposal of the U-Mul-Ga project to the World GFS Council and it was selected as the GFS world project for 3 years (2008-2011). The GFS U-Mul-Ga project likes to take as their motto "Bear one another's burden"(Galatians 6:2).

Opening 'Cafe Grace' as a take-away coffee shop in the corner of Seoul Cathedral of the Anglican Church of Korea was one great solution to support the work. Cafe Grace is a not-for-profit business for hiring North Korean refugees as employees. The purposes of operating cafe are to operate an actual business for helping them, as well as serving like an incubator to acclimate themselves to S. Korean society. Cafe Grace is a place where we can share cultures between North and South Korea, and change the perception of S. Korean people towards defectors as coexisting members of our society. We plan to expand it to become an employment bank, to supply professional trainers, and to support those wishing to establish their own businesses.

As a counselling program, we organise mother and children excursions twice a year to improve mutual understanding and to have better emotional relationship. So far excursions have been held 3 times since 2010 and these have been fruitful for both families of North Korean refugees and GFS members. We also operate an internet Cafe to share difficulties and information. There are educational programs for both women refugees and volunteers (GFS) such as training for professional skills, mind control, basic etiquette, and bible study. U-Mul-Ga pursued its second major mission by laying the ground work for a local network bridge system for N. Korean women refugees right across Asia. Visits have been made to Vietnam and China to assess the current situations there. The Philippines are the next target area.

Further programs of 'After School', 'Thrift Store' and the 2nd Cafe Grace have been prepared and now looking for an appropriate place to open. There are still many more steps to take and work to be done. Therefore, we need and seek your prayers and support. We are working hard; working happily alongside women refugees from N.K., and hoping that all our activities are in line with God's will and bring glory to God.

Myung-Suk Park, Director of the U-Mul-Ga Project

GFS-the Girls' Friendly Society is a women's group established at the Church of England in 1875, and belongs to Anglican Communion. It has 22 member countries with approximately 17,000 members world wide.

If you would like more details or would like to contribute to this project please write to our Chairman.


House of Sharing
A Commitment to the Poor in the Anglican Church of Korea



The rapid development and expansion of industrialisation in South Korea between 1960 and 1980, resulted in a vast movement of agricultural workers from the countryside to the fringe of the industrial cities.

These agrarian migrants built themselves board  shacks in the mountain and hill areas creating large slums. The inhabitants of these slums were the low paid workers necessary  to support the expanding industrial economy. In the main they were construction workers, domestic factory workers, street sweepers and the like.

Life in the slums should not be envisaged as that which existed in the Victorian slums of industrial Revolution England. Crime rates are no higher than elsewhere in other areas, there is no fear involved in walking the streets and a sense of community and mutual support very strong.

Nonetheless, low pay and poor housing conditions- several families occupying one small dwelling for example - bring their own forms of deprivation. One of these is that young children, sometimes quite small children, are left at home unattended because both parents are forced to go to work. Alcoholism, a not unexpcted problem, coupled with poor health provision and inadequate educational facilities compound the difficulties of daily life experienced by the large communities of the urban poor.

The Churches were present in the slums, but by and large they confined their role to providing for the spiritual needs of the inhabitants. The Anglican Church had initiated a number of social programmes which met some of the needs but by no means all.

In 1985 Anglican Young People and Theological students gathered together resolved to start something which would make a direct impact on the social conditions affecting the lives of the Minjung or Poorest of the poor. They called the initiative 'The Movement of Sharing.'

In May 1986 they organised a preparatory group to open a House of Sharing. Their first venture began in a small rented house in Sangay Dong in September 1986. It was blessed by Bishop Simon Kim, Bishop of Seoul, in March1987. The Principal work of this first house was the provision of a night school for teen-age workers and an infant house for dual income families.

Seven houses of Sharing, sited in the three Anglican Diocese, now operate. Each  supports a number of programmes and facilities aimed at meeting the specifid social needs of the districts in which they are situated. From a small poverty, such as the protype, House of Sharing can now mean a complex which supports a number of facilities and varied programmes.

These include such things as activities which aim to meet what  is lacking in the inadequate provision of education. Study Rooms to enable students to benefit from the programmes. A Shelter for the homeless youth and a means of enabling those who need counselling for specific problems - e.g. drug abuse - and psychological healing. Add to this cultural acitvities aimed at enriching the lives of young people.

In addition there are Mother's School for the education of illiterate women, who are generally eager to take advantage of the opportunity. Self Support Centres where the unemployed are offered training and given the opportunity to work together.

Underpinning of the work of the many social programmes is the faith of the Christian Comunity. In the early days many involved in the Sharing Movement saw it only in terms of socio-economic advancement through direct democratic action. Gradually they began to realise the importance of the faith in the way they tackled the many social ills with which they had to cope.

As they bacame more involved with the poor the need to express their faith became more apparent and now celebration of Eucharist and other suitable spiritual programmes are part of the Sharing. The fulfiling of the Two Great Commandments lies at the heart of the Sharing Movement.

As the work had developed so has the need for greater funding. In this  the Korean Government and Local Authorities have some part. Whereas in the beginning many parishes appeared indifferent to the Movement now the majority of them find some funds from their own resources. Like all the worthwhile causes, there is alway a need for more from whatever source!

(This is an article written by Fr Michael Davenport for the Morning Calm No 28 February 2002)

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