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Be crazy enough to change
NKRF Date 2024-01-08 Hit 185


Be crazy enough to change




Mr. Yoon Seuonbi lives by the motto of the 10,000-hour rule, and his favorite book is 'Be Crazy for a Year (If You Want to Change Your Destiny)'.

This is because, much like the author of the book, Mr. Yoon was willing to go to great lengths to change his destiny.

It has been nearly 20 years since he came here,

He has worked in various roles, from a security instructor to a convenience store employee, and is currently a researcher and university adjunct professor.

and we will take a look back at his life, which is marked by his continuous self-improvement journey.​ 



Life is inherently unpredictable.

Ms. Yoon Seoungbi's family was once wealthy. 

With a privileged background, she graduated from school and secured a stable job, experiencing a smooth-sailing life. 

However, unexpected misfortune struck when her father became involved in a political scandal, which cast a shadow over the entire family.

In March 1997, she made the daring decision to cross the Duman River into China along with her mother, embarking on a challenging journey abroad. 

With the support of her mother's family, she entered into a marriage, but frequent refugee raids in Yanbian posed constant threats. In 2022, she was apprehended and forcibly repatriated to North Korea during a midnight operation.

After her release from a labor training camp in North Korea, six months later, she made a courageous escape once again. While working in various roles, including selling kimchi at Yanji Market and working as a supermarket salesperson, she tirelessly sought a way to reach South Korea.

For those who persevere, there is a path to find. In December 2005, Ms. Yoon Seungbi and her 8-year-old son took their first steps into South Korea.



Challenges of raising a child in an unfamiliar environment

In the early days following their settlement, Ms. Yoon received a call from her son's school teacher. 

The call was about her son's poor grades, and it urged her to investigate the matter. She couldn't help but feel embarrassed by the situation, especially since her son had been adept in mathematics.

Upon discussing the issue with her son, he explained that he and his friends often played together, but they consistently outperformed him academically. 

Then she received another call from the school, inviting her to visit her son's classroom.

Upon observing her son's class, she couldn't help but blame herself for not dedicating more time to his studies after school. 

While she understood the importance of learning at school, she also recognized the need for afterschool programs. Consequently, she started looking for academies that offered courses in mathematics, Korean language, and taekwondo.

Despite enrolling her son in various academies, noticeable improvements in his academic performance didn't materialize right away. 

As time passed, her son eventually progressed to college.

One of the most challenging periods of her life in South Korea occurred after giving birth to her second daughter. 

Ms. Yoon had to find a balance between work and caring for her children. 

In August 2011, a few months after opening a convenience store with the support of a business start-up program by Good People, her due date was fast approaching.

One midnight, as she was concluding her shift and handing over responsibilities to a student worker, she suddenly felt something pour out of her body. 

While hastily mopping the floor, the apartment complex's president, who received a frantic phone call from the concerned student worker, rushed to the scene. The lady was, in fact, the student worker's mother.

Ms. Yoon was promptly urged to visit the hospital, where her daughter was born just an hour after arriving. Remarkably, she returned to work at the convenience store only three days after giving birth.

Concerned neighbors advised her to slow down and expressed worries about her health. 

Subsequently, the real estate owner next door began to care for her like their own granddaughter, and a pastor regularly visited her store to make purchases even when he didn't have any real shopping needs.

In addition to running a convenience store, she was in charge of a civil defense lecture at Suwon City Hall. As a result, she would wrap her baby up and bring her to the lecture in her car. 

Remarkably, when she returned 50 minutes later, her baby would be peacefully asleep.​ 



Where will you stake your life?

She had ambitious plans for the future as she entered the capitalist society.

"I'm going to study. Study for three years," she decided.

However, there was a problem. 

To pursue three years of education and secure a job afterward, she would need to make significant sacrifices. 

The total settlement package after working for three years in a field where she had obtained a license within the first five years of settlement was 18 million won.

That was a significant amount of money for her, considering she had nothing. 

However, she began to question if she was willing to risk her life for that sum. 

She changed her mind. 

She got her answer when she asked herself if she was willing to stake her life for that amount of money. 

During her first two years in South Korea, she arrived in 2008 and managed to acquire five licenses, including a driver's license, a hairdresser's license, and a computer certificate. She secured a job as a secretary at Saejowi, an incorporated association focusing on a new and united homeland.

While adjusting to her work, her health started to deteriorate. 

She experienced weakness and all-over body pain. 

A thyroid tumor was discovered, prompting the need for further examinations. 

Her weight dropped to 40 kg, and the doctor advised her to reduce stress. 

Her health deteriorated to the point that she couldn't continue her work. ​ 




Running two convenience stores

Due to her first convenience store not meeting the expected sales, and her need for additional income, Ms. Yoon decided to open another one in April 2013. 

Maintaining both stores required about 13 workers, according to her.

When an employee didn't show up for their shift, she had to step in and work for two days without returning home. 

Additionally, each year, wages increased, and she had to cover various expenses, including taxes, utilities, and business income taxes. 

Financial management was challenging, and so was store maintenance.

Furthermore, in the retail business, it was essential to understand the details of miscellaneous goods, supplies, and food products, including their expiration dates, to calculate the final unit price of the inventory, which needed to match the sales revenue. 

Constant organization and upkeep were required for the items on sale.

She had to juggle both work and childcare responsibilities, leaving her in need of a new source of energy to sustain her busy life.


Another huddle in life

Ms. Yoon Seungbi demonstrated remarkable determination by enrolling at Seoul Christian University for a master's program while simultaneously raising her children and supporting her family. 

Just two years after obtaining her master's degree in social welfare, she embarked on her doctoral journey at Kyunghee University.

The study she began with the hope of doing academic research through economic analysis was challenging from the start.

The first semester focused on economics terms and English lectures. 

She was hooked on microeconomics and econometrics when she took lectures in English. 

After four years of dedicated study, Ms. Yoon earned her doctoral degree in economics, marking a significant achievement.

Her path as a scholar, not as a convenience store owner, has opened. 

After graduating, a few months passed, and one day, a friend of hers informed her about a job posting for a social welfare researcher on the website of the Veterans Education Research Institute. 

She stayed up all night to prepare all the required documents and create a presentation. 

Finally, two months later, she was hired as a senior researcher at the Veterans Education Research Institute in Suwon.

This institute, affiliated with the Veterans Welfare and Medical Corporation, focuses on research and education.

Her responsibilities in this role included conducting two annual studies, four joint studies, and submitting policy reports.

The daily commute alone took a total of five hours. Every day, as she embarked on her long commute, taking the first and last train, she held a book titled "Be Crazy for a Year (If You Want to Change Your Destiny)."

She reflects on this period, saying, "By no means was it an easy time, but I learned a lot. 

I gained insights into what it means to be a researcher and the intricacies of Korean organizational culture.

In addition to conducting research, there were administrative tasks like managing external researchers and research participants, as well as preparing research reports.

I also had the opportunity to explore research topics that personally interested me. 

Furthermore, I started teaching as an adjunct professor at Seoul Christian University, and I felt a great sense of pride when I received the invitation."

She meticulously manages her time down to the minutes and seconds, effectively handling research projects and publishing approximately 10 papers in academic journals.

She strongly believes in the concept of the 10,000-hour rule, emphasizing, "Any field has the 10,000-hour rule. I don't think you can accomplish anything without putting in those 10,000 hours. I think you have to be crazy about something if you want to become an expert in your chosen field, just like she said. I believe that it was possible because I was passionate about it."

In February 2023, as the global coronavirus pandemic continued to affect people worldwide, it eventually took a toll on her as well. 

Despite her health weakening and experiencing prolonged fatigue along with the aftermath of the virus, she was faced with a crucial decision.

She decided to let go of the demanding daily commute and instead focus on her research and teaching.

When asked about the secret behind her extraordinary drive and accomplishments, 

she humbly replied, "No matter what I do, I carry this awareness that I am working on behalf of 30,000 North Korean refugees. They can be judged based on how I perform. So the right path I take, that's the path that we are taking." Her unwavering dedication to making a difference is evident in her commitment to helping North Korean refugees and contributing to her field of expertise.