Photo courtesy of Hannah Jo

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Seoul for Ukraine: A humanitarian effort organized by Korean International School students

Seoul For Ukraine is a student-led initiative that provides humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian refugees at the Ukraine-Romania Border.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/davidmun1234/" target="_self">David Mun</a>

David Mun

April 14, 2022
As reported by The New York Times, in late February, Vladimir Putin and his forces invaded Ukraine through an internationally condemned act of aggression. As the hostile leader led his troops to occupy Ukrainian cities, it resulted in many civilian casualties. In violation of multiple peace accords, Putin disrupted the lives of many Ukrainians, who are now forced to leave their homes and depend on aid when economic stability in war is unavailable.

Because of this, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has issued a statement, calling for international aid. Responding to this call, a group of passionate students in Korea has organized a humanitarian drive to collect and deliver donations to the Ukrainian refugees at the Ukraine-Romania border. 

“Our goal and purpose, pragmatically put, is to provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees at the Ukraine-Romania border by not only raising awareness surrounding the human rights violations but also donating essential supplies,” said Hannah Jo, one of the founding members of Seoul for Ukraine.

In conjunction with spreading awareness on social media, they have organized a humanitarian drive, collecting donations at the heart of South Korea: Apgujeong, Seoul.

Students set up shop nearby a subway station on one of Korea’s busiest streets to stockpile medical, hygiene, and electronic items from pedestrians and online benefactors. The gathered items were then distributed to the Romania border through the National Post Office of Romania, which was later confirmed by verified-governmental entities.

The organization, originally initiated by four international students in Korea has quickly garnered support, securing a great influx of volunteers. These volunteers, come as liaisons to other International schools, who are responsible for spreading the word to their respective schools and acquaintances to contribute to the donation and join the team.

With this chain effect, the organization was reformed in a bottom-up process as new members added to the drive and streamlined donations.

“We think it was a great success — our organization was able to ensure a large participation pool and if successive drives are to be held, we plan on expanding our base further to involve more schools, perhaps even local ones, to contribute to our drive,” Jo said.

After the first round of donations, the founding members have confidence in replicating its success in future projects. The overwhelming success of the first humanitarian drive appears to return to the efforts of the founding members and volunteers alike.  

“The four of us are privileged enough to live in a free and liberal South Korea; this wasn’t the reality for our grandparents or even for our parents. To see democracy tainted and sovereignty breached where South Korea derived its democratic ideals — that is, Europe — motivated us to take action,” Jo said.

As the Association for Asian Studies points out, Koreans in the past have faced similar threats against their democracy, rendering them more sympathetic to the Ukrainian Crisis. Through such sympathy and altruism, Korean Youths are not veered into the path of indifference but rather a one for care, setting a prime example to those around the world to follow suit.

“To act or remain indifferent in times of such crisis is to betray humanity. Do what your conscience tells you to do; don’t be part of the collective who knew everything but did nothing,” Jo said.

Clearly, neutrality is not an option in such times: the choice is more black or white. Denying those in need during a global humanitarian crisis is siding with the oppressors — it is a decision made with greed and vice and must be avoided at all costs if we aim to stand on the right side of history. 

We all have something to learn from these brave young students. That being, we can help from anywhere in the world. If you don’t know where to start, begin by reaching out to hjo22@student.kis.or.kr and alee22@student.kis.or.kr to support their organization.

It is never too late to get involved. Let us stand for justice, and provide help to those in need. Let us be the change we want to see in the world. 

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