Volunteering in South Korea

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“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”  

– Anne Frank

Bombarded by endless tasks and distractions, people often forget about this fact: it’s never too late to change. Especially as teens, our lives seem to continually speed up. Because of this, we can get caught up in the idea that we are unable to make a difference until we are adults; until we have moved on from school and into the working world. However, that is simply untrue. Through efforts such as volunteering, anyone can find a way to impact their community positively. While age may restrict us from getting paying jobs, there is no age limit for volunteering. So I encourage you to press pause on your life for one moment and consider whether you want to make a change. If so, here are a few volunteer opportunities available in Seoul to help get you started.

When people think of volunteering, they most commonly envision working at soup kitchens, elderly centers, or other popular forms of community service. Now, there are certainly a lot of opportunities like these available in South Korea, and here are a few of the most prominent. 

Korean International Volunteers

An organization known as the Korean International Volunteers regularly organize various volunteer events that range from teaching underprivileged children to cooking food for the homeless. These events usually don’t require a long term commitment, so it is an excellent opportunity to dip a toe into various kinds of service. They are always open to new members, so contact them through their Facebook page or www.meetup.com.

Angel House Orphanage

A more specialized program is the Angel House Orphanage that assists in caring for those with mental or physical disabilities. Tasks performed by volunteers include various household chores such as cooking, cleaning, and interacting with the residents. A small group of volunteers meets the first Saturday of each month, so if you are looking for a short or long term commitment, this could be a good option for you. Find them through their Facebook page or email them at [email protected] to get started.

Animal Shelter Volunteers

Existing Seoul-based animal protection organizations are abundant, a few famous ones being: CARE (The Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth), KARA (Korea Animal Rights Advocates, and Nabiya Cat Shelter. While CARE and Nabiya Cat Shelter focus more on shelter work, KARA is more involved in animal protesting. They all may have a similar goal, but they offer differing volunteer experiences. Contact CARE at [email protected], KARA through [email protected], and Nabiya Cat Shelter through their facebook page.

Another prominent form of volunteering is through non-profit organizations that have a focus on human rights. With the various social issues existing in Korea (such as the problem of North Korean defectors and the status of women) there is an abundance of volunteer opportunities dealing with more socio-political work. Here are a few good options to look into:

Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR)

TNKR aims to help ease the transition of North Korean defectors back into society through improving their English language and job skills. While the main focus of the organization is tutoring, they may be hesitant to allow teens to do such high-level work. However, they are always looking for volunteers to assist them with the various events they host throughout the year (including speech competitions, fundraising events, festival booths, etc.). I currently work as a weekly intern for this organization, so it is definitely a plausible and positive experience. Contact them through their Facebook page or website.

Justice For North Korea

Justice for North Korea is unique in the fact that it is entirely made up of volunteers brought together to address the human rights crisis in North Korea. This structure means that they have an abundance of volunteer activities in which one could participate. JFNK offers opportunities in translating, graphic design, international campaigning, event organization, and street campaigning. You can apply for a position through their website.

I first began to participate in volunteer activities around Seoul almost a year ago. I was looking to pursue opportunities relating to what I hoped to study in the future: education. After months of emailing and searching, I eventually began working with a few English tutoring organizations and psychology clinics. Volunteering can not only be a way to give back to the community and impact society on a larger scale, but it is also a way to pursue your passions. If you are interested in environmental science, search for an organization that raises awareness for climate change. If you are like me and have an interest in education, look for tutoring opportunities, whether within your school, neighborhood, or city. Volunteering provides freedom of choice and study that we are often deprived of as teenagers still in high school. So take that step and look into volunteering, not only for the wellbeing of others but for yourself.