A generation of Korean leaders in Latin America

In its commitment to foster public-service oriented leaders, the Leadership Programme encourages first-year WHT Scholars to undertake a pro-bono project of their choice. Scholars are permitted to do this in Oxford, their home country or elsewhere, with the only requirement being that it involves engagement in unpaid public service.  Many of our scholars embark on dynamic public service projects across the globe. Antonio Beun (Argentina, MPP, Louis Dreyfus Weidenfeld-Hoffmann) shares his experience below:

Mentoring Korean youth in the Diaspora a WHT probono project by Antonio K Beun

Antonio poses for a photo with young mentees after the leadership training.

The Korean community in Argentina is roughly 30.000. The first Koreans arrived with nothing but their shirts on their backs 55 years ago. They were poor but struggled mightily and achieved upward social mobility through the textile industry. What they have done is formidable. As a close example, my parents arrived in Argentina with only $20 and yet they managed to provide me and my brothers the best education available.

Nevertheless, revenues within the textile industry create a phenomenon similar to the one known as the ‘oil curse’, applicable to several nations with plenty of natural resources. Specifically, textile businesses created disproportionate wealth. While they allowed many Korean families to achieve upward social mobility, they also suffocated other entrepreneurial activities.

In addition, ‘behavioural barriers’ prevented subsequent generations from leaving this comfort zone and innovating. The community is now facing stagnation and lack of diversification, since new generations choose to continue with their family businesses instead of pursuing higher education and other economic activities. This is not harmful in itself however; it leaves the community’s full potential unfulfilled. This same pattern replicates in many Korean diasporas throughout Latin America.

In conversation with Korean parents and young people from the Diaspora.

Identifying the right problem

  • Behavioural and social barriers

According to behavioural and psychology literature, social factors can drive patterns of behaviour. We adopt behaviours through social learning. In other words, we adopt behaviour by observing our environment and reinforcing what we have picked up through social networks (Bandura, 1977). This theory casts some light on what happens to the Korean community in Argentina and other parts of Latin America: the vast majority is dedicated to the textile business and this is a salient characteristic that defines the community in terms of behaviour and identity.

  • Identity shapes choice

According to Tajfel, we also adopt identity by belonging to a certain social group. And this is important because a person’s identity affects behaviour and choices (Akerlof, 2000). ‘Belonging’ or feeling associated to a certain social group has a great influence in how we choose occupations and where we draw the limits of our aspirations. This also explains why the second generation does not pursue higher education: identity economics shows that even if individuals have easy access to education, they might choose not to, in order to keep on belonging to a social group. As such, pursuing higher education within some groups would disrupt the routine they maintain within their social networks – from which they derive their sense of identity.

  • Preference for the familiar

Finally there is a familiarity bias. Individuals tend to prefer things that they already know and understand, compared to things they do not. The positive side is a constructed feeling of foreseeability. The downside is the path dependency to what is familiar. In the case Korean communities, teenagers often choose a job related to the community’s textile business over education, despite the seemingly obvious gains of formal qualifications.

“a one sided story is nothing more than a monologue. In other words, one-sided stories highlight not the presence of discrimination, but the lack of dialogue about what a community wants to be in a certain country. “

Antonio K Beun (Argentina, MPP, Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann)

Theory of Change

I believe that the social and behavioural barrier regarding aspirations and social preferences of every Korean community in Latin America can be overcome. My idea is simple: I leverage on social influence to address the problem. I sustain my argument in many research papers that show how social influence through mentors can improve aspirations (Beaman – Duflo, 2012; Breda 2017). Interventions which seek to address aspirations should have a knock on effect if successful. In this light, I have been volunteering through different organisations, activities and programs as a mentor for younger generations of the Korean community and diasporas in Latin America. I have been working closely with the diaspora in Argentina, but an opportunity to visit Guatemala arose thanks to the invitation of the Korean Embassy to work with the Korean community there.

Launching the project in Argentina

In Argentina, I designed a mentorship program with the Overseas Korean Traders Association, the Korean Embassy and other NGOs. We searched for talented young leaders within the community and provided them with a week-long workshop inspiring them into taking leading roles and guiding them with practical tools of leadership.

We worked on identity crisis and built strong bonds between mentors and participants. The program was divided into: personal development and identity, negotiation and communication skills, basic knowledge about the public, private and non-profit sector of Argentina.

Our goal was to bridge the gap between Asia and Latin America through young, multicultural and diverse Korean-Argentine leaders who would facilitate communication and exchange from relevant positions in the public, private and non-profit sector. We had two sets of customers: Korean parents interested in the education of their children and Korean or Korean descendant students between the ages of 16 and 22. Since 2015, we have mentored more than 100 students per year.

Replicating the project in Guatemala

It was not possible to replicate the same experience in Guatemala due to time constraints. However, I was able to work for a long-day workshop with more than fifty participants between parents and students. In this opportunity, I opened with an initial talk stressing on the similar origin I shared with them, because perceived similarity is fundamental for trust-building. I then highlighted the idea with examples (that I frequented the same type of Korean restaurants as them, the church, etc.). Finally, I showed them that I progressed in my career because of hard work rather than because I was gifted.

In the second part of the day, I worked individually with students addressing their concerns. Something that surprised me was that these were students that needed much more than social catapults, such as resources or money. In fact, their biggest demands and questions were not around a lack of access to good education, but a lack of role models to follow or consult. A second problem that was common among all students was the lack of integration with the Guatemalan society and the resulting prejudice against Asian communities. I argued that the community should stop regarding the issue as a consequence of discrimination. Instead, think of it as a consequence of a lack of conversation.

I explained that a one sided story is nothing more than a monologue. In other words, one-sided stories highlight not the presence of discrimination, but the lack of dialogue about what a community wants to be in a certain country. An immigrant community that talks with the host country can negotiate the limits of its identity, accommodate its integration and contribute to the future of that society. In contrast, the community that does not attempt to generate this conversation, contributes passively, to feed prejudices and, thus, stereotypes. The result of the workshop was satisfactory and it was especially helpful that I could work with students and their parents at the same time.

About the Scholar

Laura Stewart

(), I am not a scholar
, Oxford

2019 Oxford Africa Conference

Asserting Africa’s Relevance; locally, continentally, globally – a reflection by Sarah Michieka

WHT Scholars Sarah Michieka (USA, MSc Migration Studies, Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann) and Zamiyat Abubakar (Nigeria, MSc Social Science of the Internet, Oxford-Hoffmann) at the 2019 Oxford Africa Conference.

The 2019 Oxford Africa Conference was centered around the theme of asserting Africa’s Relevance: Locally, Continentally and Globally. The conference began with several satellite events leading up to the main conference events at the end of the week.

Ghanaian-born British actor, Hugh Quarshie who is an Oxford alum and former President of the Oxford Africa Society.

During the Roundtable on Continent and Diaspora Collaborations for African Development event, we heard from several presenters and discussants including Ambassador Johanna Svanikier and Oxford Alumni and former Africa Society President Hugh Quarshie before beginning our discussion on the potential for collaboration and impact on the continent. As this was the 60th year of the Oxford University Africa Society, we took time to reflect on the previous accomplishments in government, business, and arts of previous alumni from the continent and discussed our generation’s potential impact. It is often  easy to speak about the challenges facing the continent, from youth unemployment to government, but as Hugh Quarshie reminded us, “We may have got it wrong,  but it’s not too late to correct.”

Businessman and philanthropist, Dr Mo Ibrahim, in conversation with Primrose Adjepong.

After that inspirational roundtable, the main conference scheduling began on Friday with an opening speech and Q&A with Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Founder And Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Dr. Ibrahim spoke about his career and how experiences guided him to build the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Dr. Ibrahim urged us to take on the challenges of public affairs with the same passion and determination that we bring to our pursuit of of academic and professional success. And finally Dr. Ibrahim offered guidance and reflection on how we can be intentional and thoughtful about our purpose and impact as Oxford students and future Oxford graduates.

The next day was filled with panels, debates, interesting addresses, and an innovation fair. We covered wide ranging topics including the Utilization of Africa’s Cultural Capital for Social and Economic Development, Challenging the Status Quo for Good Governance, and Leveraging Innovations in Agritech and Agribusiness on the Continent.

The 2019 Oxford Africa Conference was an exhibition of the great potential of the continent as well as a poignant reminder of the responsibility and the privilege we have in contributing to the realization of that potential. It is easy to get caught up in my time at Oxford especially during exam season. However, events like the 2019 Africa Conference allow me to pause, reflect on my purpose, and consider how I can best utilize this opportunity to study at Oxford as a Weidenfeld-Hoffmann scholar. I was able to reflect on how to prepare for a life of service; As Dr. Ibrahim noted, “we cannot succeed if society around us is failing;” success is not only about accolades and degrees, it’s about making an impact on the society around us.

About the Scholar

Sarah Michieka

United States
Migration studies (MSc), 2019
St Antony's College, Oxford
Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann Scholar

Access to Justice in Colombia

A WHT Pro Bono Project by Laura Aristizábal

An infographic on barriers to accessing justice in Colombia developed by WHT Scholar, Laura Aristizabal (Colombia, MBA, Louis Dreyfus – Weidenfeld and Hoffmann)

In Colombia, more than 11000 lawyers graduate annually from the 137 programs in the Country that are recognized by the Ministry of Education. The rate of lawyers per one hundred thousand inhabitants is 438 in Colombia, whereas it is 72 in France and 23 in Japan. On the other hand, the population does not know its fundamental rights and the existing knowledge is not homogeneous among its different groups. From the general population, 65% expresses knowing their rights, but this decreases drastically as one reaches the population living in extreme poverty (28%). In spite of the initiatives developed in Colombia to empower people in matters of law, there is no continuity nor clear policy. In addition, it could be determined that, of the population in the middle of a conflict, most decide not to do anything and, from those who decide to do something (43%), only 10% come to the attention of the judges, which might be an indicator of access barriers.

Access to justice for poor people is not recognized by the population as a right but as a privilege and it is only guaranteed by the Public Ministry and by the Consultorios Jurídicos (mandatory social work for law students). This leads to the fact that citizens who most need a lawyer, leave their cases in hands of the most inexperienced people.

When I was studying law I decided, taking a first step towards these identified needs, to do legal consulting brigades for people with low income. While working in field, this project enabled me to test and validate the hypothesis I had, that low-income populations are not aware of all their rights.

On these brigades, we went once every 3 months (more formally since June 2015) with two other lawyers, to forgotten and underprivileged neighborhoods and spent whole afternoons with members of the communities in order to help solve their concerns.

As part of my Weidenfeld Hoffmann programme, I continued to develop these legal brigades, where some cases that can be worked online were sent to me on a monthly basis. Since I started my MBA at Oxford, I have personally worked in 21 cases of a pool of more than 135 cases. Topics went from family (32%), criminal (28%) and labor law (19%), to simpler requests such as understanding how to process paperwork in public entities in Colombia (21%).

Approaches for addressing ‘Access Barriers’ in Colombia, by Laura Aristizabal

As a result, from these brigades, first as a group and then as an individual, and since June 2015, we have helped 412 people than under regular conditions would have never reached a lawyer to solve their inquiries or cases, while saving them more than 30.000 USD in legal fees, employing more than 20 graduated lawyers for about 15 dollars per inquiry. Today, we have 412 additional Colombians that understand their rights and are able to get access to justice through the help of a group of young lawyers that are starting their careers as practitioners.

Working on those cases from Oxford has been a rewarding experience where I has been able to also help some of my users with personal budgeting and entrepreneurship online consultations (taking advantage of the skills I’ve acquired during my MBA).

Also, I’ve been able to map the system of access barriers to justice in Colombia (Infographic below) to understand better the environment I’m working on to think about viable solutions to eliminate the barriers in the system and to build sustainable solutions in my country.

About the Scholar

Laura Aristizabal

Master of Business Administration (MBA), 2019
Green Templeton College, Oxford
Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann Scholar

What is “home”?

– United Diaspora Conference 2019

Saadia Gardezi (Pakistan, MPhil Modern South Asian Studies, Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann-Rausing/Abraham)

“What is Home”? This was one of the questions being grappled with at the United Diaspora 2019 conference organised by Common Purpose. Common Purpose organises leadership events focusing on developing countries. They connect business leaders across different sectors and use the host city in a very creative way to facilitate learning (e.g. you go for walks with your fellow programme participants). For some at the conference, “home” was a shifting category. They lived in the UK, but identified as Nigerian, Indian, or Lebanese. For some, “home” was wherever they were happy. For another few, “home” was the planet – they aspired to be global citizens. Ultimately, there was no resounding agreement on what “home” is but we did agree on the practical implications of this ‘place’ – for right to work and travel, immigration laws and pursuit of well-being and happiness. 

Conference attendees participate in the ‘Leading Beyond Authority’ session.

This year’s event was the first edition of United Diaspora. As Alison Coburn, the Chief Executive of Common Purpose International explained, their organisation was already working in countries with a significant diaspora population, and therefore they recognised the common challenges different diasporas in the UK face. From 30th April to 1st May, we had two lovely venues for our discussions: on the first day, we had the privilege to spend our day on the top floor of City Hall in London, overlooking the Tower Bridge and the City. On the second day, we were in the beautiful building of Bank of America. During the morning of the first day, we got to know as many people of our group (of roughly 90 leaders) as we could by introducing ourselves and switching tables frequently. In the afternoon, Julia Middleton, the Founder and Innovation Head of Common Purpose gave a talk and participated in a panel discussion about Cultural Intelligence, as a tool to understand one’s own and others’ core values. According to Julia, these values are “stable and unshakeable, and can be contrasted to our flexible values. Giving them an equal space in our interactions with people, and interacting with other keeping in mind the framework of flex vs core, can help up navigate  and understand values of people we wold not understand if we had too many unchangeable core values”.

Project Dastaan – co-founded by WHT Scholar, Saadia Gardezi.

Estzer Kabos, a Hungarian WHT scholar had the opportunity to discuss her work to bring people back to Hungary; to reverse the country’s ‘brain-drain’, with an Armenian expert in the field who has been successfully working on such an initiative for more than 20 years. I was delighted to talk about my own project in defining ‘home’ – Project Dastaan. The project aims to film stories of the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 in virtual reality. Both of these projects are in areas that require the input and support of the diasporas of our home countries. For this reason, we found the event to be extremely helpful. It was impressive to see 90 young and mid-career professionals take time off for two days from their demanding professional careers to be at the event.

By the end of the conference, we all realised what Common Purpose knew already: that we are much more similar than we think. However, when confronted with real problems, or migration, asylum and employment, our core values take over, and have created a world where we are not being flexible enough to find common ground.

About the Scholar

Saadia Gardezi

Modern South Asian Studies (), 2019
St Edmund Hall, Oxford
Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann-Rausing/Abraham Scholar

WHT Summer Internship in Delhi

Max Weidenfeld travel grant reflections by Ayushi Agrawal

captured at a children’s education initiative supported by the Indian Railways in
Allahabad .

As a human rights advocate with a focus on gender, I was keenly looking for an opportunity to learn how my current studies as a law student at Oxford can be applied for the benefit of stakeholder groups, and bridge the essential gap between academic theorising and relevant practise.

The Max Weidenfeld travel grant allowed me to travel to Delhi during the spring vacation 2019 to intern with the Samana Centre for Gender, Policy and Law for three weeks. It is a gender consultancy focusing on gender diversity and inclusion, and helps institutions better implement laws, by assisting them in designing workplace policies, conducting workshops and creating more sensitivity to gender issues, ultimately aimed at empowering women and the LGBTQ community and furthering their inclusion and growth in the workplace.

In two of my courses, Comparative Human Rights and Comparative Equality Law, a significant portion of the class discussion is centred on how rights ultimately percolate down to those for whom they are intended, through the institutions that mediate them i.e. the legislature, the judiciary and public & private workplaces. As an intern at the Samana Centre, my work was a direct application of what I’m learning in those classes.

My first project revolved around researching paternity leave policies in companies around the world, and highlighting practices that can be followed by willing companies in India, that do not currently have a law for paternity leave. The comparative nature of my courses at Oxford assisted me in undertaking the comparative research for this project, and also made me aware of the vast difference across countries when it comes to laws that further gender equality.

My second project involved research on harassment of trans-gender individuals in India. While I was aware of the problem; this research made me aware of the whole range of discriminatory practices and harassment faced by the transgender community, which can include violence by police, harassment in schools and at the workplace and barriers to accessing basic amenities such as toilets.

My third project required that I research the position of women in the legal community in India. My findings showed dismal representation of women, especially in professional positions such as advocates, judges and corporate law firm partners. This insight has only strengthened my resolve to work for gender equality in India.

My final project consisted of making a comprehensive index of all the sexual harassment cases that have come before Indian courts since the passing of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act, 2013. Reading through these judgments, which were numbered at more than 130, and encompassed the Supreme Court, and 17 different High Courts, reinforced in my mind the vastness and prevalence of the problem.

Having now finished the internship, I feel that I have gained significant practical insight into the context of my own country, which will definitely go on to enrich all that I have learnt and will learn in the classroom at Oxford.

A group of children is captured here at the educational project in Allahabad.

In addition to the internship, I was able to visit Allahabad, a city in Uttar Pradesh, where my father is currently posted as an Indian Railways employee. While I was there, I participated in the pro-bono efforts of the Indian Railways to increase access to education for poor children who live on the railway platforms. These children spend their entire lives on the platforms, and often have no family. They either beg or sell food/drinks to support themselves. The initiative aims to introduce children of all age groups to the joy of learning, by engaging them in short stories and preliminary mathematics lessons and giving them a space where they can simply be children instead of worrying about making a living. Participating in these sessions reinvigorated my sense of duty towards the lesser privileged people of my country, and gratitude for everything I’ve been privileged enough to experience, especially my education.

I would like to thank the Weidenfeld Hoffmann Trust for awarding me the Max Weidenfeld Travel Grant, which allowed me to have this educational and fulfilling experience.

About the Scholar

Ayushi Agarwal

Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL), 2019
Exeter College, Oxford
Oxford-Hoffmann Scholar

WHT’s Alumni of the Year Award

The Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust recognises the exceptional value of our Alumni. As part of our annual end of year Leadership Forum we are accepting nominations for ¨WHT’s Alumni of the Year Award¨.

Our Leadership Programme aims to foster a community of leaders who are agents of change in their societies and across the world.

Have you been involved in work which is outstanding, been a change maker in health, sustainability, education, politics, business, etc?

Follow the link to nominate yourself or an alum you know

About the Scholar

Laura Stewart

(), I am not a scholar
, Oxford