BUSAN, South Korea -- Her husband used a pressure cooker to burn half of her face. She was in her early 30s, with two daughters. She was Lee Sung-yol’s first patient at the Christian Counseling Center she had opened Busan on February 1, 1990.
“Please help me,” the woman pleaded. Lee knew the woman and her daughters could not return to the home where she had suffered eight years of abuse. With her own money, Lee got a small three-bedroom apartment for them. Since then, Lee has been devoted to helping victims of domestic abuse, providing them with support and services that barely existed 20 years ago.
Sae Gil Welfare Corporation’s multi-stage shelters are the growing result of her efforts. It began as a single shelter, Busan’s Women Shelter, founded in 1992. The main shelter in Yeonsan was remolded this past year to accommodate the growing number of women leaving behind their abusive situations. This facility can now temporarily support over 40 women and children. When the women have nowhere to go except back to where their abuse took place, Sae Gil will try to continue to care for them. Currently there is no long-term shelter for survivors of sexual abuse, but Sae Gil hopes to provide one in the future. However, it’s a project that may have to wait, as the they continue to face funding challenges.
Before government support, in the form of welfare, was available to the shelter in 2000, Lee drove to markets, collecting leftover food. She held bazaars and concerts, raising money to support victims of abuse that came to the shelter for help. The staff at Sae Gil still does the same, finding donations wherever they can to fill the void that little government funding has left.
Government budget changes made in 2011 have made it tougher to aid these women. It is difficult to provide both them and their children with even the basic essentials like food and clothes. Women who are eligible for welfare programs are often denied assistance, because using the shelter’s address has been deemed unacceptable by the government. The preferred address of the government is a home address, which these women have left behind; therefore they are unable to collect the assistance they are entitled to.
Sae Gil’s shelters offer help to anyone: locals, foreigners and immigrants. However, in Korea, where the issue largely remains a private matter for the family victims of domestic abuse must often suffer quietly.
What Can You Do to Help?
This year, like the previous one, there is a huge potential for raising awareness of women’s issues within the foreign and Korean community in Busan. The foreign community through Busan Volunteer helps by offering a diverse set of classes at the shelter. The classes are for both the women and children living at the shelter and range from English courses to yoga and zumba classes. Recently, Busan Volunteer has been taking the women and children on bi-monthly Saturday outings either to nearby parks or the beach. Programs like these offer victims a chance to feel less secluded and segregated from the rest of society.
“[The staff] dedicate their lives to these women 100 percent," says Sae Gil director, Kim Eun-lee. "They see their mission in life is to help these women.” She has been working at the shelter for nine years now and says it is a difficult job, mentally and physically. Struggling to find the correct English words to express how she feels, Kim places both of her hands flat over the left side of her chest. “Same as my heart,” she says. “The women here [are the] same as me.”
For more ways to get involved in this cause please contact Busan Volunteer on Facebook.
Sharky's Bar in Haeundae will throw a special party on Saturday, October 20 starting at 6 p.m..
To help raise money and awareness, along with donating the evening's proceeds, Sharky's plans to offer prizes throughout the evening:
- Bottle sets
- Appetizer coupons
- Gift certificates for food and drinks, and others donated by local businesses
For more info on the event go here.
There will also be collection boxes at this month’s Global Gathering at Nuri Park near BEXCO on the October 20.
Busan Volunteer is having a food and toiletries drive all month long at locations throughout Busan. We are asking that you drop off things such as shampoo, soap, laundry detergent and all household cleaning supplies, as well as canned and dried foods (no ramen) to the locations listed below.
- Haeundae: Sharky’s, Wolfhound
- Jangsan: HQ
- Kyungsung: HQ, Eva’s, Ol ‘55
- PNU: Thirsty Moose, Basement
- Gwangan: Sharky’s, Beached
For more info on where you can donate, go here.