'Pandemic can't stop us': SIWA bazaar goes online - Korea Times
The Korea Times

Settings

ⓕ font-size

  • -2
  • -1
  • 0
  • +1
  • +2

'Pandemic can't stop us': SIWA bazaar goes online

  • Facebook share button
  • Twitter share button
  • Kakao share button
  • Mail share button
  • Link share button
Ghanaian Ambassador to South Korea Charis Margaretha Obetsebi-Lamptey Zwennes poses near a table showcasing cultural products of her country which will be sold during Seoul International Women's Association's online bazaar to be held at siwakorea.com from Nov. 8 to 21. Courtesy of Nora Gyuris
Ghanaian Ambassador to South Korea Charis Margaretha Obetsebi-Lamptey Zwennes poses near a table showcasing cultural products of her country which will be sold during Seoul International Women's Association's online bazaar to be held at siwakorea.com from Nov. 8 to 21. Courtesy of Nora Gyuris

Int'l women's group's annual charity event this year to feature gourmet food

By Kang Hyun-kyung

Bottles of baobab oil, shea butter in plastic containers, chocolate bars and pieces of colorful fabric are placed on a small table in a corner of the Azaleas Room of the brand-new Fairmont Ambassador Hotel on Yeouido, Seoul.

Also placed behind them are three oil paintings created by Ghanaian artist Nsiah.

One after another, Ghanaian diplomat Isabella Sauponey was putting items in place attentively and trying to make room for another item she had brought from her embassy in Seoul.

"These are $150 each," she said, pointing to one of the oil paintings. "The artist used real sand here as a material. Try it and you can feel the rough texture."

The Ghanaian second secretary then showed a colorful yellow fabric to this reporter. "This is Kent cloth. Kent is a particular style of woven fabric which originates from Ghana. Kent is associated with the Ashanti tribe and their culture," she said.

Items on the table are to be sold during the forthcoming bazaar to be held online from Nov. 8 to 21. It's the biggest annual charity event prepared by Seoul International Women's Association (SIWA) in collaboration with the diplomatic community in Seoul.

The small table featuring iconic Ghanaian cultural items was set up there as a reminder to participants of the 59th SIWA and Diplomatic Community online bazaar opening ceremony that the charity event is just around the corner, so be prepared.

Representing their countries, embassies are blending charity with cultural diplomacy.

The Embassy of Hungary, which also showcased in advance some of its donations at a booth, prepared a small table featuring Hungarian wine also to be sold during the upcoming online bazaar.

Sun-mi Nam, the Korean wife of Hungary's ambassador to South Korea, said Hungarian wine is world-class but lesser-known among Korean consumers. "This white Tokaji wine is a favorite of female consumers. It's a great dessert wine," she said in praise of the country's wine.

In a congratulatory speech at the opening ceremony on Tuesday, Song Hyeon-ok, the wife of Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, expressed her gratitude to the dedicated SIWA members who prepared for this year's event, despite the pandemic. Song said she was touched by the international women's association's six decades of unwavering dedication to helping disadvantaged Koreans.

Song Hyeon-ok, center, the wife of Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, and SIWA President Veronica Koon, fifth from left, cut the ribbon during the opening ceremony for the 59th SIWA and Diplomatic Community online bazaar held at Fairmont Ambassador Hotel on Yeouido, Seoul, Tuesday. From left are SIWA Special Events Chair Eunice Go; Fairmont Ambassador Hotel in Seoul Sales & Marketing Director Jason Kim; Seoul Foreign School Assistant Head Dawn Stark; Song; Koon; Konnul Teymurov, the wife of Azerbaijan ambassador to South Korea; and SIWA Fundraising Vice President Lee Bock-hee. Courtesy of Nora Gyuris
Song Hyeon-ok, center, the wife of Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, and SIWA President Veronica Koon, fifth from left, cut the ribbon during the opening ceremony for the 59th SIWA and Diplomatic Community online bazaar held at Fairmont Ambassador Hotel on Yeouido, Seoul, Tuesday. From left are SIWA Special Events Chair Eunice Go; Fairmont Ambassador Hotel in Seoul Sales & Marketing Director Jason Kim; Seoul Foreign School Assistant Head Dawn Stark; Song; Koon; Konnul Teymurov, the wife of Azerbaijan ambassador to South Korea; and SIWA Fundraising Vice President Lee Bock-hee. Courtesy of Nora Gyuris

The opening ceremony was held on Tuesday, days before the start of the online bazaar in order to inform the Korean public of the event, so they can join the group's cause-driven activities.

"The bazaar was held online last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the first time to host the event online since the creation of SIWA and we learned a lot. With fewer donors participating and fewer people that knew about our online event, last year's event was not as successful as it had been in the past," said Lee Bock-hee, vice president of fundraising. "So, this year, SIWA board members agreed to beat the drum earlier by holding an opening ceremony and actively engaging with media to promote the annual event."

The lingering pandemic is a stumbling block to SIWA's annual bazaar which had been held in person for decades.

"The bazaar is all about gathering. To be successful, people need to come to the event. Due to the pandemic, however, we were unable to hold the event in person," Lee said. "Our decision to hold the bazaar online means a lot to us. This indicates our will and uncompromising spirit that the show must go on despite the pandemic, because it has been held for 58 years."

SIWA President Veronica Koon said there was a consensus among SIWA board members about the need to continue its six-decades-long mission to help those in need through the charity event.

"SIWA has not stopped charity and philanthropy work since 1962 and the pandemic wouldn't stop us, either," she said. "Over the years, SIWA and the embassies that supported us have developed trust and support on the issues we presented since my presidential term started in 2019. Going forward, SIWA would like to be in a role that embraces and supports international women and those in need in Korea."

Koon said this year's event will feature a "gourmet" theme, as SIWA members learned from last year's event that food and beverages were especially popular. Under her leadership, there has been a meaningful membership change in SIWA. The Chinese Embassy has joined the international women's group's charity event.

Lee noted the SIWA bazaar is much more than a platform for buying and selling products to raise money to help others. "Some of the visitors come all the way up to Seoul from Busan for the bazaar. There's something that makes them keep visiting. Each embassy's booth has its own, unique cultural products. If you go to the booth run by the French Embassy, you'll meet French-speaking people and get a glimpse of their culture, too. SIWA bazaar is a rare place where you can meet the world," she said.

This year, 21 embassies will join the online bazaar. The participating embassies are Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Ghana, Georgia, France, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Latvia, Thailand, Tunisia and Turkmenistan.

SIWA will sell the donated products on its website and have them delivered to buyers.

All revenues earned from the sales of the products will go directly to underprivileged people, including single mothers, the disabled and children in need, according to Sunghwa Han, a Korean American who chairs SIWA's welfare committee.

The bazaar is one of the two big annual charity events hosted by the organization. The other is the SIWA Gala held in the first half of year.

Launched in 1962 by several female leaders, SIWA has responded to the changing needs of Korean society through money raised for charity.

In the 1960s when the nation was mired in poverty, the international women's group prioritized feeding hungry children. In the 1970s and 1980s, SIWA provided scholarships for children who were unable to continue their studies due to poverty. Single mothers, the disabled and children from working-class families who cannot afford to attend after-school programs have benefited from SIWA's charity events.

The focus of the international women's group has changed since its founding.

SIWA was initially established as a multicultural group where women from Korea and other countries could socialize to help adjust to Korean culture and develop ties.

Soon the organization became a high-profile platform for gatherings and cultural interactions between like-minded Korean and foreign women. First ladies and wives of Cabinet members and Seoul mayors have participated in the opening ceremonies of SIWA's annual bazaars.

Its membership is largely composed of spouses of foreign executives and ambassadors and Korean women who are educated abroad, as well as those who are interested in cross-cultural exchanges. The group currently has nearly 300 members, about 30 percent of whom are Korean citizens.

Sun-mi Nam, wife of the Hungarian ambassador to South Korea, poses with napkins near the booth showcasing Hungarian wine set up at Fairmont Ambassador Hotel in Seoul, Tuesday. Courtesy of Nora Gyuris
Sun-mi Nam, wife of the Hungarian ambassador to South Korea, poses with napkins near the booth showcasing Hungarian wine set up at Fairmont Ambassador Hotel in Seoul, Tuesday. Courtesy of Nora Gyuris
Kang Hyun-kyung hkang@koreatimes.co.kr


Top 10 Stories

go top LETTER

The Korea Times

Sign up for eNewsletter