Most women want to look younger. Here is a woman who is impossible to guess her age. “I am always thankful for my life.” Park Dong-Eun (PARK), who gives dreams for children, is called living history of The Korean Committee for UNICEF. The Sookmyung Times (SMT) met her and could hear about her secret.
SMT I wonder how you spent university life in the late 1950’s because you worked various jobs in different areas after graduating. How about your university life?
PARK The time when I was at Sookmyung Women’s University (SMU) in the late 1950s was rather simple. There were no television and internet as it is now. So, it was unnatural to develop different clubs like today, and it is so narrow that students couldn’t have a range of activities. However, I participated in‘ Friday Club’where I could debate kinds of social issues with other students in English. I remember one of what I learned there. I debated if it is possible that man and woman were friends or why a conflict in Yougoslavia occurred. I think I was close to a model student. It was the time when I concentrated more on my way, and I used to spend time reading a book and listening to music on the radio, which was very romantic. Also, I was very happy that I could learn classic English poems such as Shakespeare’s and classic literature because there were good classes in SMU.
SMT After graduating, you decided to become a reporter. What factors affected your decision? Also, I think it wasn’t the easy way for you to work as a female reporter for nine and a half years. Did you ever receive discrimination as a woman reporter?
PARK When I graduated, most women typically chose their jobs such as teachers or secretaries. Of course, I received the proposal that I become a teacher, but I don't want to it because what I wanted was to work internationally as a diplomat. So, I submitted my resume at many offices including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but I endedup being a cub reporter in Dong-A Ilbo. It was an issue that two out of all the selected cub reporters were female reporters, including me. At that time though there was restriction about women’s social activities, it didn’t matter for me due to the restriction. I worked in a social department where it was composed almost entirely of men for a long time, but I went with male fellows and I reported accidents equally as men. In reality, I reported historic events like the April 19 revolution. Also, in the midst of reporter life, I could develop my work by studying journalism at the newspaper of Seoul National University. Finally, I went to America to study more about it. The objective I went there was to study, but I had opportunity to get a lot of experience. After the term in university was over, I traveled and worked in different areas during vacation, which was very interesting and fun.
SMT After you came back to Korea, you were in charge of promotion in Planned Parenthood Federation of Korea. In those days, it must have been a significant effort to dispel the deep-rooted social preference for male babies. Could you tell me about the effort?
PARK I worked as an instructor at a university as soon as I returned. At that time, the Korean government was emphasizing Planned Parenthood Projects. By accident, I had the opportunity to take on the project. The time working was very enjoyable for me because of my many responsibilities. Firstly, I had made a population clock tower in sixteen big cities. Also I had thought promotion would always go ahead. At that time the slogan “A properly brought-up daughter is worth ten sons” came out. However, most importantly of all, if the plan succeeded it was necessary to change people’s attitude of the family plan. So as to advertise it, we made dramas, enlightening films and conducted a campaign. If this experience wasn’t given for me, I wasn’t in UNICEF later.
SMT Starting as a foreign officer in UNICEF, for twenty-two years, you have stood with the history of The Korean Committee for UNICEF. What is your power moving UNICEF as an Executive Director for such a long time?
PARK UNICEF was created to provide emergency food and healthcare to children in poor countries. Korea was also one of recipients of UNICEF. However, with rapid development, Korea has become a country who gives help for the poor. This is the first case of the change of a country’s state. Still, it was true that many people lacked a concept of donation and they thought it was only a thing at the end of the year. To increase a freewill contribution, we made a card to appeal to them about the situation of children all over the world. But it is not enough to change into a contribution culture. So I tried to think of a system of fund raising reorganized and to open a new chapter of public contribution. Consequently, Korea entered within the top 10 in 36 UNICEF board countries. One time, I visited Vietnam. There, a lot of children greeted me with a kind smile, and I was deeply moved by them, which always gave inspiration for my work, and it would naturally be power of leading.
When I deal with difficult things, I am likely to think simply, not completely. It is very simple to get one thing, and lose another thing. If you are too goal-oriented, you could use any means to get what you want, which is very dangerous. So it is really necessary to master what you work in order to show woman power because the most important thing is sensible judgment. Whatever you work, if you do your best for work, you will naturally have judgment. Also, if you are always thankful for the work given to you, someday opportunity will come to you.