There are many of you who are very busy these days. I cannot guess each of the reasons why you are so busy, but there is one decisive assumption that can be suggested: you are preparing for future employment. On campuses today, including that of the University of Seoul (UOS), employment preparation is considered somewhat of an essential requirement for students of all grades. There are many students who are preparing to acquire some job criteria, for example, a TOEIC score. On the other hand, some students are participating in activities that are recommended for future job searches.
Is this preparation something that you really want to do during your time at university? Although it is unclear exactly how many, some people are seemingly confused about whether or not they really want to spend their time preparing for future employment.
There is a man who would like to tell you to follow your wants, rather than doing what is required to secure the future. He also emphasizes that doing so can help you find your true future dream eventually. His name is Kim Myoung-jin (Dept. of Environmental Horticulture, ’07), and he heads an organization named ‘CultureGround.’ Founded in 2012, it is dedicated to organizing international culture festivals. It also sends expedition teams overseas to explore some unique aspects of foreign culture and holds network parties to encourage cultural exchanges between Korea and other countries.
I met him in a cafe located near the Front Gate of UOS. A neat-looking and enthusiastic guy, he answered my questions nicely and explained why he thinks it is important to do what you want to do and how it can help envision your future.
Follow your wants
Judging from the fact that he leads CultureGround at such a young age, he seemed not to have spent his time preparing for future employment. He said that he did not look for employment intentionally. “I was engaged in brand consulting when I was a university student. That being said, I did some kinds of work, because I wanted to do it. So I did not actually prepare for getting a job. At some point in the past, however, I really felt like looking for what I wanted to do. I thought that it would be crucial to have a real profession that I could be devoted to. That was why I looked for my true profession, not for employment.”
While trying to search for what he could do later as a real profession, he participated in a volunteer group and also kept working in online marketing. “I thought that by combining what I was engaged in with what I would like to do, I could make myself a profession that had not existed before. By doing this, I wanted to work for social ventures. That was how I first began my future blueprint as a ‘one-man company.’”
▲ A table set with food, made by partcipants in the cooking festival in Florence, Italy
Turn hardships into growth points
I asked him whether or not he faced any difficulties while starting his one-man company, CultureGround. His answer was YES. “Since I was inexperienced and had to gain financial support to start my one-man company, I had some problems organizing the budget and recruiting who would work with me. At that time, I shared an office with people from other organizations. As I almost never went home and kept working there to create my organization, they were moved and tried to introduce me to some people who would be able to give me some advice on what I was working on. Then I was introduced to a chef who works as a professor and began to plan a cooking festival with him in Florence, Italy.” As he prepared for the festival in Florence, he also encountered other problems like procuring food ingredients overseas.
However, with the help of the people who decided to work with him on the project, he successfully held the festival in Italy. “It was an international culture festival. There were two teams: one professional and one amateur, that all cooked and presented both Korean and Italian food. The festival drew a huge crowd and helped raise awareness of Korean food in Italy. Even though it took a long time to prepare for the festival, it was surely a unique experience and helped me prepare future events. Looking back, it was something like ‘connecting the dots.’ All I did at that time somehow turned out to be a great help for me.”
Vision leads to dreams
I also asked him what kind of ‘culture’ his organization is working in. “I thought that many of the existent culture festivals were held almost in the same manner and did not generate much fun and joy. That was why I decided to work on making interesting culture festivals. Moreover, by doing so, I intended to introduce Korean culture to other parts of the world. In other words, I wanted to focus on encouraging participation in such activities, by stimulating people’s wants. I wanted to organize a festival that people could take part in with enthusiasm.”
His definition of culture also helped him turn his idea into reality for creating such an organization. He thinks that culture can be likened to a ‘big road.’ “Once people begin to walk through a small way, it becomes larger and finally becomes a big road. Likewise, culture reflects how people live their lives. By organizing international cultural activities, I wanted to give a change to different cultures and to people’s every day lives. That is, I wanted to help people find their wants and focus more on their enthusiasm, by working together with my organization.”
As you can notice here, his decision to change the cultures and then kindle people’s sense of protagonism led to the creation of CultureGround. Its slogan and motto also represent this idea well. “That is why I chose ‘Learn, Enjoy and Share’ as the slogan of CultureGround. I want participants of CultureGround’s activities to learn and enjoy what they do more autonomously and more enthusiastically. In addition, I want them to share their experiences with other people, to change the whole sense of culture and then the ideas of people. I want participants to be protagonists not only in my organization’s activities, but also in whatever they do.”
▲ Kim Myoung-jin with Nepalese people after paying a visit for talks on IT Center
Non-stop challenges ahead
Besides the first festival that he organized in Italy, he has also held various events abroad to improve Korea’s overseas recognition and encourage Korean and foreign youngsters’ enthusiasm for their future dreams. “CultureGround also held other festivals in foreign countries, including Indonesia. The purpose of those festivals was to help young people — both Korean participants and local residents — understand the power of doing something autonomously and enthusiastically. The events were organized as cultural exchange programs, but they also played a role of fueling the local youth’s confidence in doing what they want to do.”
He is also planning to hold other cultural events. For example, CultureGround partnered with the Nepalese government in building an IT Center for local youngsters. “All these plans also concentrate on the same purpose: ‘Let them do what they want to do, so we build a foundation for them.’ These young people will grow up to become engaged in a sense of enthusiasm and protagonism. Then they will be a driving force for cultural change, which means the change of how people think and behave.”
Last words to UOS students
Even though he told all his stories without any hesitation, he was very humble in giving some advice to fellow UOS students. “My story will be helpful for some students, and not for others. However, what I want to say is that you will successfully discover and pursue your dreams if you do what you want to do with a sense of joy, enthusiasm and protagonism, and you will surely be much closer to what you want to become. I do not urge you to stop all what you are doing to prepare for the future: for instance, your employment. However, I would like recommend that you avoid giving up what you want to do because of preparations for the future and enjoy your now.”