Paying it forward, Korean-style

| June 28, 2012 | 0 Comments
Koreans take part in the Rolling Rampage on Parliament Hill. Ambassador Nam Joo-hong is in the front row, centre, wearing a white ball cap with his hand in the air.

Koreans take part in the Rolling Rampage on Parliament Hill. Ambassador Nam Joo-hong is in the front row, centre, wearing a white ball cap with his hand in the air.

The idea of “paying it forward” has always been something that appealed to departing South Korean Ambassador Nam Joo-hong and that’s exactly what he did in April, just days before he was unexpectedly called home for a new, high-profile job in Korea’s national security.
The Rolling Rampage on the Hill is put on by the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons to raise awareness about sport for people with disabilities. The event’s mission, said founder and retired Senator Kim Kochhar, is to make people aware that being in a wheelchair doesn’t prevent them from being athletes. “A wheelchair isn’t a sign of a disability, but a symbol of freedom for people who cannot walk,” Mr. Kochhar said.
The event brings wheelchair athletes from around the world to Ottawa to race in a 10-kilometre event (that’s 18 loops on Parliament Hill). The winner receives $30,000 — which is provided by Scotiabank. Athletes pay $1,000 to enter the race, with funds going to the foundation. This year’s event attracted 13 of the world’s best wheelchair athletes and the Korean embassy — the only diplomatic mission to participate — helped pay some of the expenses for Gyu-Dae Kim, the Korean athlete who raced. The embassy gave $2,000 in sponsorship money.
The embassy also formed a large cheerleading contingent for Mr. Gyu-Dae and used the event to help publicize a full year’s worth of events in 2013, which will mark the 50th anniversary of Canada-Korea diplomatic relations. Finally, the embassy agreed to encourage other diplomatic missions to participate in next year’s event, specifically Japan and New Zealand, which both had athletes present.
“I am proud to have been able to help support such a worthy cause,” Ambassador Nam said. “Participating in charitable events is important both to me personally and also to the Republic of Korea, as Koreans have progressed to a position where we are able to give back to international charities after having been a receiving nation in decades gone by.”
In addition to the professionals’ race, the Rolling Rampage invites a number of school children to watch the big race and to participate in relays of their own. There’s also a wheelchair relay for parliamentarians and diplomats.
Mr. Nam joined in that race and discovered it’s harder than it looks: “I happily participated in a short wheelchair relay race,” the ambassador said. “The professional athletes make it look effortless, but let me tell you, this apparent ease is the result of their hard work, dedication and mastery of the sport.
“The parliamentarians, men in uniform, and diplomats like me needed every ounce of concentration just to keep the wheelchairs going in a straight line. As my fellow relay racers can surely attest, racing in a wheelchair for the first time is a humbling experience.”
When he left Ottawa, the ambassador (who, along with his wife, Mi-sook, a professor of English literature, was very active in the diplomatic community), said he would always fondly remember his time in Canada. “I will miss the kindness of people I have met during my stay,” he said.

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Category: Diplomatica

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