by Maaike van Nus
ShoesThe entrance to the NGO’s office, filled with the shoes of volunteers. It is a small but cosy office with three rooms and hallway/kitchen. In Korea (and many other countries) it is customary to take off ones shoes before entering a house, and this also applies to some offices. When there are meetings the little place for shoes can get a little crowded! This photo was taking during an orientation session, where new volunteers got an introduction to the NGO.
Speech contestThe NGO organises a bi-annual speech contest. For this contest North Korean refugees are coached by a few volunteers in order to hold a speech in English for an audience of a hundred people. A big event for the NGO, the volunteers, and of course the refugees. In the foreground two of the judges can be seen, and in the background several volunteers and journalists are taking pictures of the winner of the contest.
Cleaning upVolunteers cleaning up the room after the speech contest. A bit of hard work, but entirely worth it. Afterwards we all went out for a nice dinner to celebrate the successful contest.
Transcription timeOf course I also had to transcribe my interviews. Thankfully Seoul is filled to the brim with nice coffeeshops (not the Dutch kind, the ones that actually sell coffee), and quiet study cafés. Perfect places for some transcription time!
InterviewMe (on the right) interviewing a new volunteer at the office. I was lucky to live very close to the office, so whenever there was an opportunity I could quickly run in order to attend an event, do an interview like this one, or just to help out.
For my master in Social and Cultural Anthropology I did three months of fieldwork in Seoul, South Korea. My research revolves around the moral worlds of volunteers working with North Korean refugees. The large majority of my time was spent at an NGO which provides free English classes for North Korean refugees. Not only are the tutors volunteers at this NGO, the staff and directors are all volunteers too! This photo essay will give an impression of how I conducted my research.
Maaike van Nus studied Social and Cultural Anthropology at the VU. She wrote a thesis on the moral worlds of volunteers working with North Korean refugees.