‘I will become a teacher to help children like me’

December 16, 2015

Im Su-hwan, 17, the top prize winner of the 4th Korea Multicultural Youth Awards organized by The Korea Times says becoming an elementary school teacher will be a step toward helping young children from multicultural backgrounds like him.

Im Su-hwan, the grand prize winner of the 4th Korea Multicultural Youth Awards, smiles in the hallway of Deogam High School in Gimje, North Joella Province, Monday. (Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul)

Im Su-hwan, the grand prize winner of the 4th Korea Multicultural Youth Awards, smiles in the hallway of Deogam High School in Gimje, North Joella Province, Monday. (Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul)

Youth-AwardsBy Lee Kyung-min

Becoming an elementary school teacher will be a step toward helping young children from multicultural backgrounds like him, says Im Su-hwan, 17, the top prize winner of the 4th Korea Multicultural Youth Awards organized by The Korea Times.

The 11th-grader at Deogam High School in Gimje, North Jeolla Province, was born to a Korean father and a Japanese mother. Having a foreign-born mother often made his school life difficult in Korea, a racially homogenous country where citizens are still not familiar with people of different ethnic backgrounds.

“When I was in elementary school, I was bullied a lot,” Im said.

“Other children said to me with a degrading tone, ‘Hey, I heard your mom is Japanese!’ My mom is indeed Japanese, but I could not understand why that had to be any reason that I was bullied.”

Im said he would teach children that bullying is bad, especially when it is about who their parents are.

“I love my mom. She means the world to me. It was so painful when I was being attacked because of the person who I love the most.”

He believes that the role of a teacher is very important, because young children tend to follow what their instructors tell them.

“I think it is important to learn from an early age that difference does not justify discrimination. That is what I want to teach.”

His friends describe Im as a hard-working student with a good-natured personality.

“Su-hwan is really passionate about teaching,” said Im’s best friend Choi In-gi. “When we ask him something while studying, he studies it himself, and then helps us. Sometimes I want him to stop, but I can tell that he is really into making things clear, and he is also very kind. He is a good friend.”

Im is also an avid reader, but he is also fully aware that some things cannot be learned only from books. He says volunteer work further inspires him _ he has done 232 hours of volunteer work since last year.

“I read books for senior citizens at a welfare center in Gimje in January,” he said. “An elderly woman there told me that she could not go to school even though she really wanted to. That was when I learned that I should not take anything for granted, and should be grateful for what I have.”

Teachers say such a modest and positive attitude is especially commendable considering his family’s poor financial status. His father has been ill, unable to work, and his mother works irregular jobs. Im also has two younger brothers. He has been receiving scholarships.

“There are typically expected behaviors from children in similar situations to Im _ either turning violent and directing their anger at others, or refusing to face their situation,” said Choi Jae-wook, Im’s teacher. “But Im is brave to stand firm, undeterred by hardships.”

“I know my family does not have a lot of money, but I am not ashamed,” said Im. “I have a mom who loves me more than anyone in the world. I will give hope and inspiration to people like me, the financially less fortunate but emotionally rich.”

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