“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it,” according to Helen Keller. As she implies, all people confront crisis, but it is important not to yield to that hardship. Recently, one woman has also shown a surprising attitude towards others regardless of age. Kim Sungbin was a victim of bullying in high school. However, she overcame her circumstances and now consoles those also in need of help through an application called Holding Five. SMT met Kim Sungbin to discuss the application and the motivation behind it.
Holding Five provides and outlet for those in need by listening to concerns and providing consolation. What motivated you to create such an application?
When I was 17, I was bullied by my classroom mates. At that time, I believed it trival, but nevertheless, it was a cruel game they played on me and I was at my wits end. As time went on, my self-respect lowered, and I felt helpless because I wasn’t valuable to the world. Before ever being bullied, I opposed suicide and only believed certain odd people would take their lives. However, I came into hard times due to bullying, and I realized that suicide was not only for the odd few, but an escape for all of us. At that time, I needed a friend who would listen to my story. If I had had just one friend get close to me, I might not have tried to kill myself. One day, on my way home, a thought came to my mind. If I ever overcome this awful mess, I am going to work for people in pain. Specifically, I meant be a friend to all in need.
There are many ways you could have chosen to help, why did you opt for a smart device application?
Well, the smart device—mostly phones—has two faces. They are used for cyber bullying at schools. Thought I was bullying firsthand at school in the daytime, I also got bullying at night from comments on my smart phone where classmates blamed me for various reasons. At the same time, I found hope could come from the smart phone. I was confident I could become a friend to those in need because most people have smartphones nowadays. We tend to keep it close to us, so communicate with people is fast. In fact, it might be the only thing that keeps someone from killing themselves. Therefore, I designed a smart device application, Holding Five.
I have heard that besides teenagers, other age groups are using the application. How are the different generations making use of your app?
In fact, people suffer similar troubles: relationship problems, reoccurring dreams, and study related issues. However, teens generally feel the most pressure from bullying or violence at school. Fortunately, as they become adults, bullying no longer becomes a major issue; rather, the concern turns to job problems. Also, when they become twenty, they cheer the other teenagers who experience the bullying like them through Holding Five application.
You got the idea for Holding Five app at just 19 years old, right in the peak of university entrance exam preparations. Why did you place such a hush on the application?
When I get an idea planted in my head, I don’t hesitate. If I had given up my app creation dream and pursued the entrance exam for university, I would have forgot my real dream and went down the wrong path. Also, I really wanted to help others who faced the same rejection I did. Although it was hard to convince my parents that this was the right direction for me in life, they finally agreed with my determination and I started creating my design while studying at the same time.
Besides Holding Five, there are many other apps with similar functions. What is so unique about your app?
Before establishing Holding Five, of course, I considered the market of other similar app ideas. However, none of the apps were made by a teen. Because I had experienced bullying firsthand from classmates, I can send direct knowledge and care. Having been bullied, I know what it is like. None of the other apps can offer advice or sympathize with victims like me. Also, I created an anonymous feature so that users could express their emotions freely without being identified. My only concern is that as I don’t have the user’s information, I can’t find out if I prevented a tragedy for the person or not. On a positive note, I have yet to see any malicious comments on or about my app.
You must have encountered a lot of problems trying to create Holding Five such a young age. What is the most difficult part of operating the app?
Although Holding Five was my vision, it was harder than I expected to create. I faced a lot of difficulties but capital and promotion were the most arduous problems. To establish and operate this app, I really needed huge capital. Even from the onset, I had to invest 3,000 million won. I was shocked because I was just a common student. Therefore, I had to look for companies that would finance my idea. One enterprise offered to invest in me but offered talent donation instead of money. Consequently, a miracle occurred and I succeeded in creating an android version of Holding Five. Also, before starting, I felt that once my app was completed perfectly, my work would be done. However, I learnt that besides building the app, I had to promote it to others. In order to do this, I decided to use media. There, I recorded a video about my app and sent it to various broadcasting companies. As you might have guessed, I got no response, so I was very frustrated at that time. One day, JTBC contacted me and my story was broadcasted over the news. Because the press—like SMT—was interested in my app, many people in pain learnt of my app and got help.
Recently, you wrote the book, Help me! Holding Five based on the Holding Five app. What message does your book hope to give to readers?
After my app was aired on JTBC news, I received a call from a representative of a publication. She said, “Let’s write a book based on Holding Five to give hope to suffering children.” At that time, I was excited to receive her proposal because it would supplement Holding Five’s shortcomings. Because text is uploaded sequentially in time order, former postings can disappear. In the book, people can share important or precious stories which may be vanished in the app. Therefore, readers will realize how much anxiety teenagers have.
In addition to Holding Five, you have introduced Happy-in and Dream-in projects, too. Why made you create those programmes?
I created the Happy-in and Dream-in projects to help others. Happy-in provides happiness—like mentoring to others, and dream-in allows one to act like a mentee. The two projects complement each other. At present, there are lawyers, dubbing artists, chefs, singers, businesspeople, and educators working for Happy-in. I started these programmes so that students in need of help could get help faster and easier from professional adults. In reality, it is not easier to come in contact with a professional, so I wanted to be the link between the two.
What is the most rewarding moment operating Holding Five, Happy-in and Dream-in projects?
Anyone who gains courage from pain through Holding Five provides me with a sense of reward and happiness. My app has so many pleasant messages; for example, I once read, “Through Holding Five, I decided not to commit suicide because of bullying” and “In the past, I thought that no one understood me, but by reading Holding Five comments, I have learnt that there are people out there who see me as something great and are rooting for me. From now on, I will live enthusiastically. Thank you.” When I find text like these, I appreciate their courage.
What is your dream or plan 10 years down the road?
Even after 10 years, I hope to be continuously developing Holding Five. Other than that, I hope to be involved with social conflicts, and become a communicator who solves conflicts by communication. Also, in order to make youth happy, I will study to become a child educator. Specifically, I plan to set up a healing camp and create podcasts for children. I expect to have various platforms upon which children can show their talents and abilities. Although I am dreaming big, I am confident they will come true.
Outcasts also exist at university because they cannot adapt to school life. Do you have any words of advice for students going through difficulties?
I think that when you meet hardship, it is important to turn the crisis into an opportunity. For a miracle to occur, you will need strength from within. If you choose to become an outcast voluntarily, do not blame yourself and do not get frustrated. You need to be confident in every situation you face. I pray for your happiness.
• Seoul Women’s University Student Majoring in Christian Studies
• Holding Five, Application Operator
• Author of Help Me! Holding Five