Project Haven: KIS Students Practice Compassion

Naryeong (Leanne) is a KIS senior interested in humanitarian causes. She and other students have devote their time to helping others in practical, needed ways. Here, Naryeong tells about her club’s efforts to establish a shelter for women. 


Shelter for Battered Foreign Immigrant Women

At Amnesty International KIS, a high school club at Korea International School, our values are aligned with Amnesty International, an international non-governmental organization that strives to “act and conduct research to promote justice on the side of those who violate their rights, and to prevent major human rights abuse.” In the past, Amnesty International KIS has worked on various projects to advocate for such a cause. We have petitioned for the Undocumented Immigrant Minor Rights Protection Act, urging a secondary review for long-term unregistered migrant workers and their children. We also established the Thinker Library foundation to build local libraries in underprivileged areas around South Korea.

This year, we have started a new initiative called Project Haven. We hope to create a shelter as a place of refuge for immigrant women and children suffering from domestic violence. To create a shelter “like family, like friend,” we plan to house twenty-nine immigrant women and their children. Most of these women are deprived of their rights due to employment and the visa issuance criteria. The shelter will provide kitchen and laundry facilities, medical aid, and a safe place to live and sleep. 

Norma’s story influenced and motivated us to start such a project. “My life has been so hectic and chaotic trying to protect my children from my husband who always became violent after drinking. My eighteen year-old daughter started attending a boarding school to avoid her father. Even my young, naive son ran away from home for two days and returned. I want to be able to live with my children.” Her emotional and heartbreaking experience with domestic violence depicts how serious this issue is and how urgent she is in need of help.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea released a study of Korean migrant women in 2017 that stated 70.7 percent of them were unemployed and had no personal income. It also included that almost 35 percent of these women said their husbands and Korean in-laws would not give them an allowance. At the same time, 15.5 percent stated that their husbands had used their assets for their benefit without any prior consultation, including their monthly salary. Another survey also from the National Human Rights Commission of Korea presented information regarding the different types of violence migrant women in Korea face. 80 percent of migrant women have experienced verbal violence, 40 percent have endured physical violence, 11.9 percent have been forced to have an abortion by a family member, and 27.9 percent have been pressured into taking part in sexual activities. These sources of research and data demonstrate the lack of power and say these women have in society and how changes need to happen in order to improve the overall circumstances.

Our Amnesty KIS club looked into the many different problematic causes of the treatment that migrant women experience. The biggest legal vulnerability is the visa issuance criteria for them. If an F6 marriage visa is extended to a migrant newlywed, then she can stay in the country for two years. The bi-annual renewal of her visa status, as well as the eligibility for permanent residency and naturalization, depends on the sponsorship of the South Korean spouse.

So far, our project has made immense progress. We’ve secured a shelter through a government grant of $50,000 and have secured a shelter that currently houses twenty-nine women. We plan to raise another $50,000 to extend the lease for this contract another three years. Project Haven strives to resolve many of the existent problems concerning immigrant women and their children. To accomplish our goals, we have partnered with Seongnam Migrant Center and Amnesty International, and they have agreed to contribute to our vision.

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