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Meet Batdelger Bodigal
Photo of Batdelger Bodigal Courtesy Batdelger Bodigal
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There are about 2.52 million foreigners living in Korea, marking about 4.9% of the total population. It could be said that South Korea has become a ‘Multicultural Society' where various races and cultures coexist.
The ECCK met with Batdelger Bodigal, Honorary Citizen of Seoul from Mongolia. Ms. Bodigal has been actively engaged in various projects where she demonstrated her abilities and influence to enhance the lives of the foreigner communities residing in Korea.
"I never thought I would be staying in Korea for such a long time and be a voice for and help those who need my help," said Ms. Bodigal. She entered Jeonbuk National University with a scholarship program and started her life in Korea as an international student.
You received the Seoul Honorary Citizenship in 2017.
Could you explain about that?
Batdelger: Language is a very important element of communication among people. However, in order to fully know and adapt to a country, being able to speak a language is not enough. I believe it is necessary to learn about culture, customs, etc. through hands-on experience. After marrying my husband, whom I was dating in college, and becoming a married immigrant woman myself, I ran into a reality that was not easy to take in. This made me vow to do what I can to help married immigrant women to Korea based on the difficulties I have experienced. In February 2014, I worked at the Seoul Global Center, which provides foreigners with various living information, consultation services with field experts, cultural programs, etc., and had the opportunity to meet many of the various people. At the same time, I came to know a lot of the difficulties they faced. I shared their stories on a live broadcast program for over 4 years in hopes of reducing prejudice towards them, and to act as a medium that bridges the foreigners and the Koreans. I was recognized as a Seoul Honorary Citizen for this project.
Did you experience any difficulties living in Korea as a foreigner?
Batdelger: I could say prejudice and negative attitudes of some people towards foreigners. When I first came to Korea as an international student, of course, the language barrier was tough to overcome, but teammates' attitudes towards me while working on a group project was the most difficult for me. They naturally assumed that I would not work well and would be a burden, just because I was a foreigner. I understand that there could have been a few instances where international students failed to commit to their obligations but stereotyping such behavior for all foreigners and underestimating the talented individuals seemed a little unfair.
Could you explain the projects and activities you have been doing to help the multicultural communities in Korea?
Batdelger: I have been handling projects in a wide variety of fields. First of all, I worked with government agencies, such as the Ministry of the Interior and Safety (MOIS), Ministry of Government Legislation (MOLEG), etc. to become a voice that conveys foreigners' needs by providing consultations and contributing columns for newspapers.
Additionally, I carried out volunteer activities for married immigrant women, Mongolian communities in Korea, etc. One of the most memorable activities was the experience of easing the financial burden of pregnant women by working together with the National Medical Center. When the ones I helped expressed their gratitude and decided to name their children after me, I felt very proud.
Based on my experience as an international student, I have also been helping foreign students with college admissions for the past 5 years by providing consultations for those of different cultures and languages.
If you could pick one, which activity or project of yours made you the proudest?
Batdelger: It was most fulfilling to work with the Mongolian community in Korea to donate for the residents of Gyeongsangbuk-do, who are having a rough time amid the COVID-19 situation. I wanted to convey to the residents the message that foreigners are not the target of unconditional help, and that they will live together to help. What surprised me when I proceeded with the project was that on the 8th day of the donation, I collected a donation of 10 million KRW and donated it to all under the name of the Mongolian community in Korea. Donating monetarily for someone is never easy, as transparency of the process is very important. However, the donators believed in me and actively engaged in carrying out the good deeds.
What are your long-term goals in life?
Batdelger: Playing the role of a pioneer who develops the multicultural society of the Republic of Korea further in the future. I will strive to demonstrate my abilities in various fields and have a positive impact on more people. Above all, I think the most important thing is to make efforts to improve the awareness and attitudes towards the foreigners. Moreover, I want to study and gain experience in a field I am yet familiar with, so I could provide the suitable support for those in need.
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