Your parents have worked hard their entire lives to raise you, but now that they are in their 50s and 60s, they are likely considering retiring. Perhaps they are considering a life without children at home, or perhaps they are thinking of attempting something they gave up in their youth to raise you. For all the seniors contemplating what life has to offer after retirement, Relifer and Zipbac are there to help them. The Sookmyung Times met Ok Yujung, founder and CEO of Relifer and Zipbac, two companies that help seniors enjoy their days after retirement.
Relifer and Zipbac are specialized companies that are aimed directly at seniors. Could you explain to our readers a bit more about your companies and what you do exactly?
I manage an event and operate content for seniors. We provide information about our company on the online site Zipbac. The company has 4 separate divisions: an interview division, an outdoor division, a group activity division, and a healing division. Although each department is important, the most important section is the interview division. We interview regular senior citizens who retired and are doing activities they have always wanted to enjoy. At the interview, we highlight and show other seniors enjoying their retirement years. By doing this, it also opens up doors and possibilities they didn’t think were available to them. Our outdoor division provides seniors with information on various cultural programs geared directly to seniors in Korea. We also recommend places worth visiting. The healing division provides seniors with basic information on health and life. We are also running a project called Item Excavators that researches citizen needs.
Have you ever interviewed someone who truly impressed you? Can you share a bit of that with us?
Actually, I remember every single person I’ve interviewed and each and every one is memorable. However, there is one man, who once worked as an IT industry developer but is now busking at Hongdae, that pops to mind quickly. There is also another man who started to photograph the disabled and a woman who after retiring from a life of teaching became an actor. I can also recall speaking to a retired kindergarten teacher who became a fairy tale writer. I have met so many interesting people over the years. Since you are asking me to choose just one, I guess I’d have to say a college alumnus from Sookmyung Women’s University. To be honest, at the interview I didn’t recognize her. I was just interviewing a model, I thought. Getting to know her, I learnt that she was a college alumnus from the same university I graduate from. I was both surprised and pleased that she was living her elderly years well. She is now an active member of the program, Item Excavators.
Establishing a company is not easy, but you have had great success. What made you establish such a company and why have you decided to focus on the aging society in Korea?
At Sookmyung Women’s University, one of my course projects was to create a new business. I wrote my business proposal with the idea of working with seniors because living in the countryside, I encountered many seniors and was familiar with them. That project was the initial idea behind my corporation. Although I dreamt of operating my own corporation since I was young, I never imagined that day would come before I reached 30. I decided to start the business while at university after much reflection. I worked as an ambassador of Sookmyung Women’s University, and that was the most precious time during my university days because I really enjoyed introducing the school to others. After retiring from my work as an ambassador, I felt a great sense of loss. I ended up spending much of my time alone in my room, especially on vacation, contemplating my future. After vacation and with the return to normal school life soon approaching, I said to myself, why not just start right now? It was at that time, Sookmyung Women’s University opened its start-up business assistance, so I decided to give it a try.
As CEO of the company, you must have encountered several setbacks. What was the greatest thing you’ve had to deal with as CEO?
As CEO, I have had lots of troubles; I can’t choose just one. When I first attempted to start the business, I had a hard time getting funded. I got some money from the government’s new business assistance program, but I spent it on the creation of a magazine for seniors. After then, I had nothing left, so I need to seek other sources of funding for the business. I stared collaborating with other corporations for operating various programs and events. It turned out great. Still, there are times when I still face financial problem, but I have a systematic business system, and I am confident it will continue to be successful.
You must have had to make a lot of sacrifices for Relifer and Zipbac. What are your goals for the future?
I have always hoped Relifer and Zipbac would be the means by which seniors attain much needed and timely information about life, culture, jobs, and so on. In Korea, there few activities seniors may participate or join. I hope to expand into culture activities so that when my generation reaches retirement age, we can live in a society that offers seniors plenty of opportunities and choices during their days of leisure. Thus, I am going to push through all barriers. Also, I want Relifer and Zipbac to spread to countries outside of Korea. I would love to see my business utilized abroad. Personally, I would like to meet a mentor, someone in power that I could learn from. I would also like to meet mentee who I could lead. If I could get both, I believe my life could have more worth.
Many students worry about their future. They are constantly in torment about getting a job or operating your own business. Do you have any advice for them?
I would like to say, find what you really want from life. If you take a job that you don’t like or that doesn’t fit your personality, you’ll encounter more hardships than ever in your future. It is important to do what you want. Although it wasn't easy to start my own business, even though I am interested in that field, I faced the difficulty with joy because it’s what I wanted to do. Just start what it is you really want.
Finally, what does Sookmyung Women’s University mean to you?
I love Sookmyung Women's University since entering the school. I was an ambassador, so I learnt all about Sookmyung and was able to pass that knowledge onto others by introducing my university to them. Now, despite having retired as a school ambassador and being a school senior, I still try to tell others about Sookmyung Women’s University. Also, I sometimes think about donating to the school to create a better study environment, which will bring honour to my university. Sookmyung Women’s University means a lot of things to me. I love my university, and I want other students to do.
• Student of Department of Economics ’11
• CEO of Relifer and Zipbac