Updated: Feb 11
Flower & Hoon have been involved in the organisation since 2019 and have been promoting our work to the world ever since! As JDA Ambassadors they raise awareness, funds and support to our vital work. They also give talks and advocate against human rights violations in Korea.
So to start, how long have you been working with Justice Desk Africa and what drew you to our organisation? Flower: I was trying to think, it was about two years or three years ago, towards the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020. And it's a very funny story actually, because I came across Justice Desk Africa years ago when I was visiting in South Africa and I was just looking for an organisation to volunteer with whilst I was back home for a few weeks. I came across the projects and thought it looked like a really awesome organisation. Unfortunately, at the time my schedule just didn’t match up with the volunteering that you guys needed.
But I did a lot of research and read everything about Justice Desk Africa, because I knew I
wanted to get involved with you in the future. Little did I realise that you guys would actually be launching an Ambassadors program. So when that was launched, I’d been following your social media and it came up, so I immediately contacted you and said “Pick me, even though I'm in Korea!”
Because at the time my whole focus then was to really try and push South African culture here in Korea. To really try to educate Koreans and I knew this would be a wonderful way to connect that with spreading awareness about Justice Desk Africa and everything you do. And it's just so amazing what Jess has achieved in just two visits to Korea.
And I wanted to leave in 2019. At the time I was so over Korea, I was just gonna leave. Then Hoon and I met, fell in love and got married and I started my shop selling South African products and then it all happened around the same time. So then I thought with that, how do I advocate for Justice Desk Africa in Korea? So Justice Desk Africa has inspired me to be more vocal in Korea.
I've always been pretty vocal about things, but ever since joining Justice Desk Africa specifically, and being a foreigner in Korea for so long, I'm kind of like a local now here. So I see the social issues like a local and I can't just close my eyes to it anymore. So some of the stuff we've been focusing on in the last few years includes advocating for women's rights and gender equality and shedding a light on sexual assault amongst female foreigners here, which was really bad. And again, that's so related to the work of Justice Desk Africa, gender equality, gender-based violence, just human rights.
I am also trying to change the English teaching industry. Discrimination is a huge issue here with South Africans, and I'm a white South African, so I decided to use my privilege in a positive way to make a positive impact. We’ve been telling everyone about all the social issues and the labour law problems that we're facing in the English industry and I'm making a very loud noise on social media, trying to get media coverage and trying to get South Africans to tell their stories of how they've been discriminated against and mistreated in the workplace.
You’ve both done so much incredible work, both as advocates for our work and for the rights of others. But Hoon, as a Korean, how have you seen all the work of Justice Desk Africa and how it’s been perceived in your country?
Hoon: I think as I'm Korean, seeing Justice Desk Africa and the work they're doing and their philosophies, I’ve realised it’s really important to Korea. We’re well-known as a country of technologies and KPOP music but a lot of that is also just surface. But in our society, there's a lot of gender gap issues, a problematic hierarchy system as well as military problems. And also, it's getting multicultural in Korea, very slowly, but we have a lot to learn from South Africa and Justice Desk Africa on how to deal with the issues that arise with that.
Flower: Yeah, I think the multicultural thing specifically is important because we're a multicultural couple, and it's kind of ironic that I'm the South African advocating for Korean rights now in Korea. And through that and our relationship, Hoon has learnt more about his society that he never noticed before. Now he's always talking about the problems, when for Koreans it's very hard to speak up. That’s the massive cultural difference. We South Africans by nature are loud, and vocal, we will happily say things as they are and advocate. Whereas for the Koreans, they do not do that.
So the cultural thing is really, really hard. And Hoon's learning through me being super vocal and out there that it's okay and it's important. Which is almost second nature for us South Africans because in almost all of our cultures is this ingrained need to fight back against human rights violations. If something's not right, we all need to speak up about it.