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(Yonhap Interview) Young, professional female leader takes helm of Korean aid agency

All News 11:23 July 18, 2016

SEOUL, July 18 (Yonhap) -- Fresh out of college in 1995, Yang Jin-ok joined a fledgling organization that sought to help the poor and needy in the world.

More than 20 years later, the 45-year-old mother of two has become president of what is now a reputable international relief agency with 1 million donors, over 200 operations in 35 countries, and an annual budget of 180 billion won (US$159 million).

"Because I've worked here for 21 years, I know each and every staff member well," the new head of Good Neighbors said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency at her office in Seoul Thursday. "I know the ins and outs of the various projects Good Neighbors carries out. My strong point is that the values a non-profit organization should strive for have become a part of me."

Established by a group of South Koreans in 1991, the Seoul-based organization is the only major non-profit agency in the country that is fully privately run.

Yang, who assumed her new post on July 1, recalled that even though the company's operations were minimal at first, she saw a future for herself.

"I learned what I couldn't learn at school as my understanding of the private relief sector improved and as I took part in collecting donations," said Yang, who majored in social welfare. "That excitement and passion led me to stay here for so long."

One of the most memorable projects she took part in was a campaign to spread free meals to underprivileged schoolchildren who often went without food during the holidays.

"We wanted to have the kids come to school, receive food and take part in educational programs, but the schools disapproved," Yang said. "From then on, we went knocking on the doors of each school and explained the program to them."

Eventually, the project that began in Seoul in 2002 spread to other schools across the nation by 2004.

As a female leader, Yang said she is able to sympathize with others better and listen to their voices with "care and consideration."

"I plan to use that kind of soft leadership," she said.

The new chief also offered her vision for Good Neighbors, saying its role is to move hearts by drawing practical benefits and change through its projects.

"The world is becoming increasingly complicated and no problem can be handled by one organization alone," she said. "We will share our experiences with other partners and contribute to creating a better world."


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