North Korean Defectors and The Million Dollar Irish Potato

I feel overwhelmed by North Korean People’s suffering. I have so many questions about North Korea:

How does all this start? How are human rights in North Korea limited? How do North Koreans escape North Korea? Where do they go? Where do they hide? How does this harrowing journey to freedom pass? What are the North Korean Diaspora destinations? What happens to North Korean Defectors in China? What’s China’s strategy for North Korean Defectors? Who are the people helping to deliver North Koreans to safety? How well do North Korean Defectors integrate into South Korea? Which challenges do they face?

And here is the most important one: how can I help North Korean Defectors?

Last Thursday, I went to the Express Bus Terminal to buy a few stationary things for my next Workshop, Far From Heaven. The Unspeakable Lives of North Korean People. On my way to my favorite stationer’s shop, I crossed Shinsegae Department Store. All of a sudden everything seemed to me so surreal. Cleef and Arpels. La Prairie. Everything so clean. Everything so white. The perfect portrait of luxury. I had to stopped for a few seconds.

I remembered thinking: this world is so weird!

HT_potato_345_kevin_abosch_002_31x13_1600

Potato #345 (2010) by Kevin Abosch. A photo of an Irish potato taken by a world-famous visual artist has sold for more than $1 million.

In this very moment there are children being abused, there are people shot or massacred. Now, while I am standing right here, there is a woman being hit by her own boyfriend or husband. Right now there is a poll going on in the world asking people about how we should name “Planet 9”, Terminus, Fortuna, Solo? Right now there are people talking about new Barbie doll body shapes of petite, tall and curvy. There is a happy satisfied  business man in Europe enjoying his “Potato #345”, a photograph of a potato recently sold for more than 1 million dollars. In this precise instant there is someone overwhelmed by all this craziness and bullshit. Me.

Barbie

A look at Barbie’s new body types, including tall, curvy and petite. Photo: Barbie

North Korean Toys

Found on Pinterest.

It is not easy to deal with all this ordeal. So many people ( all these unbearable figures). So much pain indeed. What can we do? we asked ourselves. We suffer because we believe we cannot alleviate this evil. There is a sadness trace in our hearts although the day-to-day life might keep us busy enough to take all this suffering off our mind.

“What can we do? You know, What can we do?” But this feeling of helplessness is just a another limiting belief. Limiting beliefs constraint us in some way. They are only what we think though, there is no necessarily truth in them. How do we fight them?

There is only a way to fight a limiting belief: to exchange it by another more powerful and empowering one. Here we are that I believe that we can help North Korean People.

I have created Far From Heaven. The Unspeakable Lives of North Korean People because I truly believe in solidarity and there is always a chance to challenge the status quo. We can help North Korean Defectors to find freedom and let them master their own lives. If you come next February, 29th you will see it firsthand.

Far From Heaven Banner February 29th

Let me tell you what we have planned for next Monday, February 29th.

MEET LEARN EAT SHARE

Finally, I would like to underline the bi-dimensional approach of this workshop. First, the participatory approach.There is a great panel of speakers but somehow we will manage to hear your voice because we do need to hear you.

Secondly, the positive approach opposite a victim-oriented approach. We want to focus on how we can offer higher quality support to North Korean defectors – empowering more of them to create lasting change in their lives and communities around.

Get involved! Sign up here!

Let’s meet, learn, eat & share! check our Schedule Program.

How to improve your workshop experience, click here.

We are Korean Women! Join the conversation!

Next Thursday 7th May, all of us will be Korean Women!.

WE ARE KOREAN WOMEN is a female-focused collective dialogue to challenge stereotypes and clichés about being a woman in South Korea. Korean journalist Hye-Rim Kwon and I will foster reflection on how Korean women view their past and face modernity.

But more than a workshop, WE ARE KOREAN WOMEN will be a celebration!

We are Korean Women

We are Korean Women(3)We will practise yogafit with Uliana Golovko and taste the traditional Spanish tapa pantumaca, a Catalonian breakfast or snack.

Next, we will enjoy a violin recital of Spanish pieces by Korean violin instructor Kang So Eun.

Following the recital, we will begin our presentation and open dialogue. Korea has come so far in fifty years, how have women driven that growth? What are the challenges that women face in Korean society?

We seek to break down stereotypes and go beyond cliches by means of a creative and collaborative dialogue, in which there is not a predetermined answer or solution.

Inspired by the Juanita Brown and David Isaacs’ “World Café” methodology, WE ARE KOREAN WOMEN intends to facilitate open and intimate discussion, focusing on exploring on themes rather than on problem-solving, providing an appropriate environment that encourages everyone’s contribution and allows to connect diverse perspectives.

THE WORLD CAFE: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs

Then, we will taste and learn about Hansan Sogokju, the 1500 year old beverage with an unique scent and sweet flavor.

Finally we will be captured by Simcheongjeon (심청전), one the stories of Korean Pansori storytelling tradition, officially recognized by UNESCO as an important piece of world culture.prog_14621_1Simcheong is a girl whose mother died in childbirth. She cares for her blind father, with the utmost care, the perfect model of Confucian devotion… [It will be interesting to discuss about this stereotypes in our round table discussions].

“Pansori”, often referred to as Korean Opera, is a type of traditional Korean music.

In “Pansori” two musicians are sharing the spotlight, a singer, named “sorikkun”, and a drummer called ”gosu”. Through his singing, words, and body language, the singer plays the central role while the drummer plays an accompanying role by providing the rhythm and shouting words of encouragement and passion to the performance, which totally reminds me to the Flamenco music in Spain.

In following video you can watch and listen to Jen Shyu, playing the “sorikkun in a representation sponsored by the National Gugak Center in Seoul, South Korea.

The scenes sung here are from “Drifting Along In the Sea” (범피중류) when Simcheong kills herself by jumping into the water in order to regain her father’s sight and “Simbongsa Opens His Eyes” (심봉사 눈 드는 대목) when her father regains his sight. It was recorded in 2013.

In our WE ARE KOREAN WOMEN we will read an excerpt from that final scene, when her father suddenly regains his sight and, like a wave across the earth, all people and even animals recover from blindness and see the bright world…

I want women to see! I want women to regain their self-esteem! There are lots of stereotypes and lots of glass ceilings to break, but the first ones are only in our minds!.

Prepare to be surprised!

If you wish to participate in “We are Korean Women” meeting on Thursday 7th May, please complete this succinct survey http://goo.gl/forms/E6qsPe6mP0 by Wednesday 6th May, to allow us to prepare this meeting with the greatest care.

Korea meets Spain: labs to dive deeper into the Spanish food and culture.

There is not just one Spain but many. Spain is diverse and there are surprising attractions at every turn. Korea meets Spain wishes to show up different elements about the Spanish food and culture as well as to look beyond the Spanish clichés of siesta, sangría, paella or matadors.

Seoul Forest Sculpture by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

Thursday, April 16th

Cocido madrileño (Madrilenian stew) 스페인 마드리드 지역의 코씨도 요리

Description:

A Spanish4FunCooking Lab event. Cocido is a traditional chickpea based stew from Madrid that dates back to the middle Ages. Fragrant and substantial, Cocido is prepared with meat and vegetables and arrives at the table in three courses, known as tres vuelcos. The broth with noodles precedes the legumes and vegetables, which in turn set the stage for the meat.

The audience will enjoy a breathtaking view to Seoul’s skyline in a 250 m2 empty flat only furnished with the perfect table to enhance this Womenlabkorea Luncheon. We will cook the Cocido’s recipe and while our stew is over the flames we will make a virtual trip to The Madrid of the Spanish Habsburgs, known as “the Austrians” in Spanish and will admire the Plaza Mayor, silent witness of bullfights, executions, and coronations.

When overwhelmed by the echoes of the secret culinary life of the crypto-Jews back in the 16th century, a solo violin by Sammy Park will set the stage for the three vuelcos.

Schedule: 9:30AM- 12:15PM

Venue: Hillside Residence

Cocido Madrileño Cocido MadrileñoThursday, April 23rd

Hallyu to Spain.

Description:

A #WMLABTALKS event. Inspirational thought provoking lectures. We will talk about the future of work and the key shifts that women can make to prepare themselves to a future-proof career. Example of both personal and professional reinvention, we will interview the Spanish blogger Mónica García Cabello.

Through her blog (withoutbabymonsters), Mónica García brings the South Korea popular culture to the Spanish audience. She lives in Seoul and loves it. Gifted with a voracious curiosity, every very week she goes in the search of the unexpected city, that she watches, explores and tells us about as soon as her “baby monsters” are Where the Wild Things Are

Schedule: 10:00-12:00

Venue: Hillside Residence

#WMLABTALKS Thursday, May 7th

WE ARE KOREAN WOMEN

Description:

A #WMLABTALKS event. Inspirational thought provoking lectures.

A Korean journalist, Hye-Rim Kwon and Ana Dols, the Spanish catalyst of  WOMENLABKOREA, will talk tête à tête about how do Korean women look at their past and face modernity. WE ARE KOREAN WOMEN will be a female-focused collective dialogue to challenge stereotypes and clichés about being a woman in South Korea.

We will practise yogalates with Uliana Golovko and we will taste our SpanishFIKA” -we like the idea of Swedish FIKA but we fuse it with  the signature pan tumaca Catalonian breakfast or snack-. Finally we will discover Sogokjuand we’ll taste it!-, the 1500 year old beverage, and be captured by Simcheongjeon, a story of the Korean Pansori storytelling tradition. More than a workshop, WE ARE KOREAN WOMEN will be a celebration.

Schedule: 9:30 AM-12:15 PM

Venue: Hillside Residence

We are Korean Women We are Korean Women(4)Monday, May 26

Chocolate con churros (the popular “churros” snack). 마드리드와 오리지널 초코라떼   추러스를 맛보세요

Description:

A Spanish4Fun-Cooking Lab event. Churros, the Spanish fried-dough pastry, are already part of the mainstream Seoulite culture, where there are currently 21 franchise churro brands, 17 of them registered last year. Churros are the quintessential Madrilenian breakfast. Either thin (or sometimes knotted) or long and thick, they are eaten dipped in hot chocolate or café con leche. The recipe in hand, we will be making our own churros and dunk them in a very thick chocolate -the authentic one- dip. And while we indulge ourselves with this popular snack, we will discover the controversial history of churros’ origin, the Latin American variations of the churros, or where to have the best chocolate con churros in Madrid, a city made for foodies.

Schedule: 13:30 AM-15:30

Venue: Seorae Global Village Center 서울글로벌센터 – 서울특별시

CHOCOLATE CON CHURROS in KoreanCHOCOLATE CON CHURROSMonday, June 9th

Paella Valenciana

Description:

A Spanish4Fun-Cooking Lab event. The worldwide-known Paella is a blend of savors and colors from the Mediterranean Sea. The origins of this iconic dish are humble, Paella was originally farmers’ and farm laborers’ food, cooked over a wood fire for the lunchtime meal and traditionally eaten straight from the pan. It was made with rice, plus whatever ingredients were to hand around the rice fields and countryside (the so-called Huerta). We will try the original Paella Valenciana Recipe and travel to Valencia, whose sunlight was the painter Joaquín Sorolla’s inspiration.

Schedule: 13:30 -15:30

Venue: Seorae Global Village Center 서울글로벌센터 – 서울특별시

PAELLA WORKSHOP POSTER 2015 09 JUN(1)Thursday, May 28th

Survival Spanish. Spanish smarts for smart tourists.

Description:

A Spanish4Fun event. Five sessions to help participants to navigate their way through some common scenarios (at the airport, traveling around the city, at the bank, in a restaurant, …), whether they are in Spain or Latin America. Survival Spanish will be useful either to brush up on the Spanish participants already know, or to learn all the useful words and expressions they will need for their trip. We will learn Spanish smarts about the Spanish language, social life and culture.

Timetable: May 28th, June 4th 11th 18th 25th

Schedule: 10:00 AM-11:00AM

Venue: Hillside Residence

Survival Spanish 16 oAre you ready to be surprised?.

Swedish Women, do they have it all?.

Last Thursday, March 11th we enjoyed FIKA at Hillside Residence, in Hannam-dong, Seoul. Petra Sjögren was our fabulous tour guide who shared with us many facts and stories of Sweden, a far away country – although after this Fika I have the feeling it is not so distant any more. (You can follow our board on Pinterest and discover all about Sweden: https://es.pinterest.com/womenlabkorea/wmlabtalks-fika/).

Found on subdisc.com2015-03-12 20.21.082015-03-12 21.42.00Now you might wonder what FIKA is. FIKA is a concept in Swedish culture with the basic meaning “to have coffee”, often accompanied with pastries or sandwiches. Nowadays coffee may be replaced by tea or juice. Sometimes, a sandwich or a small meal may be called FIKA, similar to the English concept of afternoon tea.

But FIKA is more than a Swedish Coffee Break.  The definition given by FIKA KOREA, which promises no less than heaven to me: “a Scandinavian style coffee-house offering premium gourmet coffee and authentic Swedish food”.

FIKA is considered a social institution in Sweden, it means having a break with one’s colleagues, friends, date or family. This practice of taking a break is a common practice at workplaces and central to Swedish life.

Traditionally, FIKA requires sweet, baked goods, especially cinnamon rolls and according to Helene Henderson, author of The Swedish Table, one needs the following for Swedish guests: “to impress, serve a variety of seven freshly baked items and be ready to talk about the weather”. Funnily enough, in our FIKA we intended to talk about everything except the weather. In fact our purpose was to know more about Swedish women (to go beyond myths, stereotypes and preposterous clichés…) and discover if they are really winning the battle of the numbers.

FICKA (8)FICKA (4)90f690b01f4ad4966319d9e4e81fa949Moreover this FIKA had a deeper meaning for me. FIKA was the first in our series of #WMLABTALKS this term. #WMLABTALKS are meant to be inspirational thought-provoking lectures about women and the future of world. In April we are hosting two more!

#WMLABTALKS SEORAE(1) We are Korean Women(5)

We are Korean Women(4)I conceived of these #WMLABTALKS as events where we can share and understand more about our lives; events to discover more about our wishes and hopes. I wanted to create a space where women can speak freely and be ready to challenge stereotypes. Furthermore, I wanted to dedicate a time to celebrate us, to celebrate women’s rhythms and women’s vision of the world´s cultures. To celebrate how far we have come and all that we have conquered. On this topic, Swedish women have something to say.

Sweden ranks as one of the world’s most gender-egalitarian countries, even in terms of language. We just learned that a gender-neutral pronoun, hen will join its binary counterparts han (he) and hon (she) in the new edition of Sweden’s official dictionary.

With an extensive welfare system, Sweden makes it easier for both women and men to balance work and family life. In the Global Gender Gap Report 2013, Sweden is named as a world leader in equality while Korea ranks 111th, out of 136 countries.

In Sweden, women are closer to sharing power and influence equally with men. The knowledge and experience of both sexes are used to foster progress in all fields of Swedish society. When talented women quit their jobs or abandon their chosen profession, not only does the country suffer a great loss of talent, but this lost potential is also painful for the women themselves.

Can we concur that Swedish women have it all? Of course not, there is still room for improvement in many areas, but after Petra’s speech we found Sweden an attractive place to live!

My reflection is that this progress on gender egalitarianism might set Swedish women a step ahead with regards to European or Asian women.  They might be starting another kind of battle. As they are “allowed” to undertake traditionally male roles, they put themselves in a position where they can choose to “opt out”. They can decide to re-invent roles and workplace culture, not following the male lead. They can put value in their own goals rather than trying to fit in the ones recognized and rewarded in a male-dominated society. This shift in views can reconcile the strong disconnect between men and women’s preferred ways of doing things.

I am Spanish and consider that we Spanish women are not in that desirable position. But in a context where many of the ways of working that we have taken for granted for 20 years are disappearing (Lynda Gratton), in a transition to a knowledge-based economy, where rules and practices that determined success in the industrial economy need rewriting, we women and men have an extraordinary opportunity to switch the paradigm and reduce the gender’s gap. There is a correlation between a country’s gender gap and its national competitiveness. Women account for one-half of a country’s potential talent base and a nation’s competitiveness in the long-term depends significantly on whether and how it educates and uses its women’s talent (http://www.weforum.org/reports/global-gender-gap-report-2014) and in the “creative economy” (President Park) there is no talent to spare.

FIKA COVER

Have you ever been to a cooking lab?. It is never too late to try it!.

WOMENLABKOREA, a person-centered innovation initiative that uses collaborative methodology and focuses on getting from ideas to action, in order to generate innovation, social capital and entrepreneurship. Our first output is the newborn “Spanish4Fun”, creative events to expand the knowledge of Spanish Culture and Language.

First “Spanish4Fun” event was addressed to the iconic gazpacho soup and the well-known Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar´s imagery…Then we made a tour to Argentina, tasted the typical breakfast in Buenos Aires and delighted with “The secret in their eyes” movie, after that we brought the Paella to the heart of Seoul…One workshop was held in the Seorae Global Village Center and the second one in Hillside Club House in cooperation with the FoD International Cooking Class.

And now we are pleased to announce that this month two more “Spanish4Fun” & Cooking LAB events are taking place, once again in the Seorae Global Village Center and in Hillside Residence.

BASQUE COUNTRY WORKSHOP HILLSIDE(1)This time our workshop will be devoted to Euskadi, the Basque Country. We will have a cooking show (Marmitako, a delicious Tuna Pot) and a “pintxo” cooking lab.

The “pintxo” is the well-known Basque hors d’oeuvre or snack, typically eaten in bars and this cooking lab means a real challenge: we want you not only to enjoy yourself and learn more about the Spanish cuisine and culture, but to have an unforgettable experience by creating your own “pintxo”, in fact by co-creating it with other people.

In our pursuit of innovation and inspired by one of the most famous chef in the world, Ferrán Adriá, we invite people to be cook!.

Our plan is to make a virtual travel to the Basque Country and discover not only the new Basque cuisine, but also their ways of eating (for there are features of the way of preparing and sharing food unique to the area) and after that we will introduce the traditional Marmitako recipe…

And while our fish stew is on the fire, we can image that we are in the kitchen of one of a Basque-style “pintxos” bar ready to prepare a new “pintxo”…

A short talk and useful tips will provide people with insights and inspiration to create a simple and tasty “pintxo”, or a sophisticated and elaborate one, or even a shocking cuisine fusion piece…Are you ready to join?.BASQUE COUNTRY WORKSHOP(2)