Notes of a Korean Exchange Professional at NASW (Part 3)

Oct 4, 2010


NASW (National Association of Social Workers) hosts professional social workers from foreign countries for time limited exchanges. The purpose of such exchanges is to provide the exchange professionals with a close up view of the various mechanisms involved in supporting and sustaining a professional social work workforce in the U.S.

Starting April 2010, NASW is hosting a social work exchange professional from KASW (Korea Association of Social Workers). Soojung Kim, manager of International Relations Department at KASW and current exchange professional at NASW, will share her social work exchange experiences through the NASW blog.


May 14, 2010

I wanted to learn about the Korean immigrant community in and near Washington, DC and it seemed worthwhile to visit a Korean community and meet with social workers who serve Korean immigrants. So, on May 14, I visited the Korean Community Service Center of Greater Washington, Annandale, VA, with Prof. Younghee Park who has been currently researching at Catholic University of America, School of Social Work as a visiting professor. The Korean Community Service Center mainly serves immigrants from Korea and other countries who are in Virginia and Maryland with a main office and 2 affiliated agencies. We learned about its projects and programs, challenges and responses as an Asian community organization from Jiyoung Cho, director of the organization and social worker Buwon Choi. We heard the downturn in the US economy has serious influences on (Korean) immigrants as well as native born Americans. Immigrants may be more vulnerable in such circumstances.

It is estimated that about 250,000 Korean residents are living in Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland including undocumented residents. 30-50% of this population has no medical insurance.  This number is much higher compared to other immigrant communities. The organization provides free medical check-ups and treatment as well as connection to financial resources if available. Cho emphasized that needs assessment of the Korean community was most important for better and timely services provision.

We also talked about the North Korean defectors as it was a main research area of Prof. Park. According to Cho, there are an estimated 100 North Korean defectors in the US. North Korean defectors, when entering the US, are sent to Kentucky where an organization to help them settle in the US is located. Subsequently they may go to other states   that have assistance programs for refugees. The Center had assisted one defector to settle in the Korean community but this has not been repeated.   Unfortunately many North Korean defectors face difficult recovery from serious trauma. Learning about the challenges of the immigrant communities and sad situation of North Korean defectors, I thought that we as social workers have a lot of issues to be addressed. Our societies and communities need social workers, indeed.