Name: Jo Mills
Hometown: Cary, NC
So what exactly have I been doing? For the past several months, I have been roller-coaster riding through a variety of programs, events, and travel procedures as prescribed though my internship here in Seoul, Korea, including, but not limited to: translating and editing official documents for the organization I work with (The Better World; International Workcamp Organization; YES Center); creating promotional materials for programs provided by our organizations by means of various media; working with my supervisors to create and implement programs for U.S. high school students who participate in NSLI-Y; acting as a mentor to those same U.S. high school students; and, of course, running various errands that most bottom of the fish-pool interns must. Certainly, life is eventful.
When I’m not fighting dinosaurs with my host brothers at home, editing videos or documents in the office, or making kimchi (one of Korea’s representative fermented foods) with Korean, French, Norwegian, Taiwanese, and Japanese college folk, sometimes I’m auditioning for and taking part in a few different music groups or partaking in a small Russian Language club. Learning Russian from Koreans? It’s pretty mind-blowing — globalization is no joke. I’ve only gotten the basics, but my teachers are really patient and it’s fun meeting up with them. Sometimes we cook Russian-Korean fusion food (because “red pepper paste makes everything taste better.”)
As far as music goes, I practice with a few different groups from time to time, but, alas, this often conflicts with my work schedule. On the bright side, I will be singing at a co-worker’s wedding this upcoming Saturday; it will be my third wedding performance since November. Additionally, I auditioned for YG Entertainment during their open audition event a few weeks ago. It was worth standing out in the cold for 4 hours for a one-minute audition time. It was a surreal experience and I met some interesting people in line.
As fun as all of these events have been, the most impactful are a bit more simple. The first took place last weekend when the NSLI-Y students and I traveled to a children’s community center to interact with North Korean defector children. These children are currently living with “host families,” and several of them are without blood relatives for a variety of reasons. All of the children that we met were under the age of 13, and none of them had been in South Korea for longer than five years. A few of them spoke more Chinese than Korean, but when playing a universally understood game of tag, no one really cares about talking. It wasn’t until after we left that my supervisor told us that every single one of those children came to South Korea by very, very difficult means—in the dark of night, barefoot, originally with their parents but at some point they could no longer continue together. A few of the children have Chinese fathers; one of the children spends alternate years in Southern China and South Korea. But even though these children have endured such hardship, just seeing them on the street you’d never know. They’re no different from South Koreans; they’re no different from any other children.
Another really humbling experience was visiting the House of Sharing in Gyeonggi-Do, Gwangju, a “residence and museum for survivors of Japan’s military sexual slavery during the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945)” with a group of NSLI-Y students for a project. We attended an English presentation of the museum and spoke with some of the presenters and several of the other attendees; interestingly, a large majority of the men and women who attended (and then, of the presenters, those who were so strongly impacted by the tour and decided to stay and volunteer for 6 months) were initially exposed to the harsh truth of these atrocities through none other than the Vagina Monologues. If I remember correctly, it’s around this time that the Vagina Monologues are performed at Salem, so hearing those words from the other participants was very powerful. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we were only able to briefly greet two of the survivors before traveling back to Seoul. This I find to be the most regretful part of the trip: being unable to spend time with the halmonideul (grandmothers) and just be in the presence of the strength of survivors.
Currently, I’m working on several PR videos and a book, all of which may or may not be up on the Internet at some point.