SIWA | Seoul International Women's Association Enhancing lives through friendship, enrichment & charity. Fri, 18 Oct 2019 01:20:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 SIWA | Seoul International Women's Association 32 32 Meet SIWA President, Veronica Koon Fri, 20 Sep 2019 05:43:34 +0000 Have you ever wondered what the lives of other SIWA members are like and what they get up to on a daily basis?

Earlier this month, I got the chance to find out just what Veronica Koon, SIWA President, does when she isn’t attending SIWA meetings and events. We met at HEYGROUND, SIWA’s new office location.

As if I wasn’t already in awe of Veronica, I learned that she successfully balances work and leisure with her husband and adorable dog, Bailey.

One of the inspiring murals at HEYGROUND.

She has two businesses.

Veronica is an extremely accomplished businesswoman with two Hong Kong-based but multinational businesses to her name: one is an event and conference management firm, and the other an import/export trade consulting company. Regular meetings and conference calls keep her busy. Considering how hard she works for SIWA, it is inspiring to hear that she is successfully managing two companies as well!

She relaxes by exercising and spending time with Bailey.

As a teenager, Veronica began to follow a healthy lifestyle. Every morning, she takes Bailey for a walk, drinks lots of water, and eats breakfast. Luckily, she lives close to an abundance of nature in the south of the city! In fact, Veronica loves exercising, so a healthy lifestyle comes easily to her. She enjoys yoga when she can, does CrossFit, and tries to be constantly active throughout her day.

She studies Korean.

Since arriving in Korea, Veronica set herself to learning Korean to better communicate with others here. After studying at various places, she now works on her spoken fluency with regular Skype lessons. She hopes that with her improved Korean skills, she can better communicate with local businesses and charities to further SIWA’s involvement in the community.

She attends lots of meetings and events.

Veronica’s days are filled with SIWA meetings with both the other members of the executive board and companies who are engaged in work with SIWA. She is very focused and makes sure all her meetings are purposeful and participants spend their time efficiently. We’re all busy after all!

She can take a breather in fall.

After becoming SIWA President earlier this year, Veronica threw herself into the work over the summer. She devoted most of her time – 8-10 hours per day – to meeting leaders, getting to know her job and the intricacies of being president inside out. Having spent so much time and effort doing this, she can relax now in the fall.

Five Final Questions

  1. Who do you admire?

My husband.

  1. What is your biggest regret?

I don’t have regrets. If I do something wrong, I fix it.

  1. Where would you like to visit next?

Africa. I’m a city girl, so I want to experience something totally different from what I’m used to.

  1. How do you relax?

Massages. In Hong Kong, I would get one every week! I don’t have many opportunities here, but I get one when I can.

  1. Do you prefer mornings or evenings?

Mornings. It is when I have the most energy.

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If you have been unable to register to Enrichment Showcase or another upcoming event you can email
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SIWA Year in Review 2018-2019 Fri, 13 Sep 2019 02:10:15 +0000 By Robin Carney, President Emerita

Dear SIWA Supporter

Looking back on the SIWA year that was 2018-19, I feel both proud and nostalgic. I write this letter from my new home in Singapore and think back upon my time in Seoul, and how much SIWA meant to me. SIWA more than lived up to its mission of “enhancing lives through friendship, enrichment and charity” throughout my four year stay in Korea. It was a great personal honor to serve as President during my final year in Seoul.

I had the privilege of overseeing SIWA’s continued philanthropic support, for the second consecutive year, of All Love School, dedicated to the education of multicultural students in Korea. During 2018-19 our Welfare Committee embarked on a second Philanthropy Project, selecting the issue of unwed mothers in Korea and their need for equality in employment opportunities, social recognition and dignity. Our committee was proud to conduct a rigorous selection process for a deserving organization working to provide vocational training and education for this underserved population. We presented the first annual donation of 20 million KRW to Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association (KUMFA) at our Spring Gala.

Raising funds for these and other worthy charities would not have been possible without the support of our members and sponsors, and for this, we thank you. Together we were able to donate over 67.5 million KRW to 10 Korean organizations serving disadvantaged people in our host nation.

Along the way, we managed to make lasting friendships and have a lot of fun together. One of my fondest memories of 2018-19 was an unsuccessful fundraising attempt: SIWA’s participation on stage in the Itaewon Global Festival. Although we did not bring home the cash prize, our team’s willingness to learn a dance routine in only 2 rehearsals, don sparkly headbands and bellbottoms and sing ABBA in front of a large crowd made me incredibly proud of the lengths our volunteers will go to for SIWA!

We celebrated International Women’s Day with our second annual student essay contest, this time opening up a category for students whose first language is not English. I was fortunate to be asked to be one of the judges of this year’s contest and the essays, not just the winners, brought tears to my eyes as I realized that the next generation really aims to achieve gender balance. The fact that two of our winners happened to be young men speaks a lot for today’s youth. We have included the winning essays in this publication and hope they will inspire you.

I would like to end by extending my heartfelt thanks to the entire SIWA team who poured their time, energy and love into making this organization a home for me and hundreds of other women in Seoul. It has meant so much to me to be a part of SIWA and all that it stands for. I wish Veronica Koon, the 2019-20 President, and her team all the best as they continue to make SIWA a special place for expats and Koreans alike.

I hope you will enjoy our third publication of Year in Review 2018-19.

September Announcement by SIWA President Veronica Koon Mon, 02 Sep 2019 12:25:05 +0000 Dear SIWA Members and Partners,

We are glad to inform you about the following change at SIWA:


Seoul International Women’s Association (SIWA) advises that effective from today, our registered office has changed to:

Seoul International Women’s Association
S606, Heyground
5 Ttukseom-ro 1na-gil
Seongdong-gu, Seoul 04779
South Korea

Heyground launched in June 2017 as the first co-working community of changemakers in Korea. Many social ventures, non-profit organisations, NGOs, intermediary organisations, and pro-bono service providers are working together at Heyground.

SIWA, as the largest and longest-running international women’s organisation in Korea, has supported Korean charities since 1962. This year, the board decided that the philanthropic side of our activities would benefit from Heyground’s innovative and collaborative culture. By becoming a part of Heyground’s ecosystem, SIWA hopes to explore new directions and further increase our impact on women’s causes and Korea’s charity initiatives.

As a part of our long-term development plan, SIWA’s internal meetings and Working Women’s Network events will take place at our spacious and modern Heyground office. At this new space, we hope to establish a stronger bond among our members and partners. Thus, our office will be open for visit every Friday between 10am to 2pm. You can make an appointment by emailing Please visit us!

Yours Sincerely,
Veronica Koon

President of SIWA

“Korea’s Past Around Us: Invented Traditions, the Unnoticed, and Erased Memories” Coffee Morning Mon, 26 Aug 2019 11:28:26 +0000 Walking into the Boccalino Wine Bar on the 2nd floor of the Four Seasons Hotel – SIWA’s new location for Coffee Mornings – I was met with smiling faces, laughter, and friendly chatter all around me. We were all there to see familiar faces, make friends, and of course to listen to a talk on “Korea’s Past Around Us: Invented Traditions, the Unnoticed, and Erased Memories.”

One new member of SIWA that I spoke to, Ciara Anderson, said that she had recently arrived in Korea and was looking forward to learning about Korean history and its connection to modern Korea. She came to the right place.

Our esteemed guest speaker was Dr. Javier Cha, assistant professor of East Asian Studies in the College of Liberal Studies at Seoul National University. Dr. Cha lectures on what Korea is now, how Korea has become Korea, and how it continues to change.

Throughout the morning, we learned some common myths and stereotypes (“Korea is small”, but actually it is the same size as the UK, and if Korea were in Europe it would be considered an average-sized country), buildings that embody in the past but may not be that old (being made of wood, many historical buildings have been damaged naturally or in war, so they have been reconstructed), remaining elements of colonialism that can still be seen today in Myeong-dong, and most popular of all origins and explanations of some Korean dishes and eating habits. For example, one particular nugget that stood out to me was that Korean food has become spicier than ever before over the past couple of decades after Shin Ramyun hit the shelves and became an instant hit. In fact, Korean food has seen a 20-fold increase in spiciness.

Dr. Cha’s passion for his subject was infectious and he had so much interesting information for us, but the time flew by and we couldn’t hear everything. Personally, I would have loved to hear more and am hoping that there will be more talks like this in the future. Dr. Cha’s insights really brought parts of Korea and Seoul into focus and have prompted me to open my eyes more as I move around the city.

Sadly, this Coffee Morning was the last such event to be organized by our outgoing Hospitality Chair, Rachel Ashby-Sexton; however, Jennifer Cho will be taking over and organizing future events.

I also look forward to enjoying more events at the Boccalino. I’m sure you agree with how comfortable the space was and how conducive it was to our event. The Four Seasons is a wonderful location in the center of the city to visit again and again.



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August 2019 Announcement Mon, 29 Jul 2019 10:09:01 +0000 To all SIWA members,

Summer is usually the time when many people get ready for their next adventures: back to school, new job, or life in a new country, for example. If you just moved to Seoul and joined SIWA, welcome!

Six years ago, SIWA partnered with Conrad Seoul when the hotel first opened. We were offered great rates to hold events at Conrad and developed a great business relationship. Regrettably, our overall venue price increased without expanded service since last year. For this reason, the SIWA board decided to host some of our events at other locations with better value. While we will maintain our partnership with Conrad, we are pleased to announce that we will move our three Coffee Mornings and the Charity Gala to Four Seasons Hotel Seoul. This change is a part of our ongoing effort to improve the SIWA membership experience.

SIWA is run 100% by volunteers and all proceeds go to our Welfare Fund. Last year we donated 67.5 million won to more than 10 charities. To expand our fundraising efforts, we will adjust the non-member price of events. As always, pre-registered members will be asked to pay only the exact cost of organizing that event. By communicating more clearly the value of price adjustment, we hope to increase the participation of members and non-members in the year ahead.

We will monitor these initiatives closely and make refinements and improvements according to the feedback we receive from our members. SIWA is grateful for your support. By coming together at this juncture, our community will continue our collective mission of enhancing lives through friendship, enrichment and charity.

Yours Sincerely,

Veronica Koon
President of SIWA

The Leeum: An Oasis in Seoul Wed, 17 Jul 2019 01:39:31 +0000
SIWA members outside the Leeum
Bathing in the glow of ‘Gravity Stairs’ by Olafur Eliasson

“A beautifully designed art museum, containing both a section of contemporary art and one with traditional Korean arts. And definitely a must-see for the architecture! It’s such a pleasure to introduce this museum to SIWA members!” says our wonderful tour leader, Sejung, who met us on a hot and humid Tuesday morning to spend a few hours absorbing some culture.

Immediately stepping inside, we got relief from the humidity outside on the streets. I could instantly feel myself relax first in the cavernous bright high-ceilinged rooms and then in the cool dark display areas. In addition, I appreciated the fact that the Leeum limits the number of visitors allowed in at one time so as not to ruin the tranquil atmosphere of quiet reflection the architects and designers have created.

The Leeum has three areas – two museums and the outside area.

Museum 1 houses the ancient traditional art of the Joseon and Goryeo dynasties, paintings and calligraphy, and Buddhist art and metalware. In addition, you can find some modern art pieces (Mark Rothko and Alberto Giacometti) among the traditional ones in an effort to connect the ancient to the present.

Museum 2 is home to contemporary artworks. I was particularly surprised to see three Damien Hirst pieces here (Nothing to Fear, Dark Round Spiral Butterfly, and Dark Oval Butterfly – the latter two being beautiful kaleidoscopes made from thousands of butterfly wings) as well as others by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Anish Kapoor, and more by Mark Rothko.

Outside the museum are some of its most eye-catching pieces, which are perfect for photo opportunities as you can see in the picture.

Impressive outside artwork

There really is something for everyone – no matter what your taste.

This was Sejung’s third SIWA visit to the Leeum as tour leader because it is so popular and each time the spots sell out extremely quickly! If you would like to visit the Leeum, please look for future excursions to pop up on the calendar. If you simply cannot wait until then, head to the museum website to organize your own trip.


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Media Art Exhibition: Van Gogh Inside Ⅱ “The Light Factory” Tue, 02 Jul 2019 09:45:32 +0000

Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

These fundamental questions are tormented brilliant Post-Impressionist artist, Vincent Van Gogh, as he endeaved to express his vision of the world through painting.

SIWA members were proffered the chance to immerse themselves in this tour on the Gimpo “Light Factory” media art exhibition this week, celebrating the life and works of Van Gogh and his contemporaries.

The intimate group of 10 members, who were enthralled as sixty projectors were transformed into the former light-factory walls into a three-dimensional tribute to the colorful, romantic and emotional works of the western world’s most famous artist.

Other works on display, such as Monet, Gaugin and Seurat, were enhanced with digital imagery that heightened the beauty and movement of the original brushstrokes.

The exhibition was followed by a delicious lunch at the rustic 9 Block Café and bakery, where SIWA Tours & Interest Groups Chair, Tere Han, praised members for their cooperation in arriving at destinations across Seoul on time and also for lack of last-minute cancellations – ensuring the event was a smashing success.

“When SIWA members and volunteers work together – brilliant things happen!” Tere said.

“The best way to know life is to love many things”
– Vincent Van Gogh

Written by SIWA member Vanessa Crago

Cultural Connection: Tunisia Sat, 22 Jun 2019 17:26:10 +0000 SIWA members were privileged to learn more about a country pioneering women’s rights in the Arab world, at a special presentation hosted by the spouse of the Ambassador of the Republic of Tunisia, Malika Khadri El Abed.

Tunisia’s culture is highly diverse, partly because of long periods of Ottoman and French rule, but also because Jewish and Christian populations have lived among the Muslim majority for centuries.

Ms El Abed explained how civil society in Tunisia is now focused on the participation of women and on education. The Tunisian Government recognizes that educating and empowering females helps bolster the economy while enhancing harmony within the

In 2016, the Republic passed a “vertical gender parity bill”, in order to increase female representation in Parliament. The new law makes it mandatory for all parties or blocks to put forward an equal number of male and female candidates. Tunisian women now currently hold 31 per cent of the nation’s seats – a remarkable achievement.

A snapshot of the Tunisian Republic’s tourist attractions included the magnificent capital Tunis, with its blend of ancient Arab souks and mosques, the ancient city of Carthage, dreamy coastal resorts dotted along the Mediterranean and the flora and fauna of the desert wilderness.

The presentation ended with a traditional, delicious, Tunisian feast of slowly simmered lamb stew, couscous, salads and sweets all washed down with refreshing lemon mint tea. SIWA would like to extend our thanks to host, Malika Khadhri El Abed for her warm hospitality. Many of us now have Tunisia on our bucket lists!

Written by SIWA member Vanessa Crago

What’s on your summer reading list? Fri, 21 Jun 2019 05:53:51 +0000 As summer fast approaches – or is it already here?? – people start spreading out to far corners of the globe for their vacation. Whether you’re heading back to your home country to visit family and friends or jetting off to a beach paradise, we all end up reading at some point. Waiting at the airport, passing time on the plane, lying in a hammock, sitting in the garden with a glass of wine as the sun goes down. The lazy days of summer are perfect for getting some quality reading time in.

Summer reading lists are always fun to peruse for ideas. Most major magazines, newspapers, and websites do them. In addition, celebrities often publish their own lists. I must admit that I always check out the reading lists of Michelle Obama – because it’s Michelle Obama! – and Reese Witherspoon, who has a fun book club on Instagram @reesesbookclubxhellosunshine.

I hope that we, SIWA members, could share our summer books to read.

I’m going to tell you about three books that I have ready for summer that you might be interested in. I also hope everyone might share their summer reading in the comments at the end of this blog post, too.

First, in my opinion, no summer reading is complete without a page-turner that you can’t put down! I have chosen to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new summer 2019 novel City of Girls. Previously Elizabeth Gilbert was best known for Eat, Pray, Love. This new novel involves an 89-year-old woman looking back on her life in the 1940s New York theater world where she enjoyed herself immensely as a young woman. I’m looking forward to this one since it apparently contains “glamor, sex, and adventure”, which sounds just perfect for summer beach reading. 

Next, a little bit of self-help. Dr Brene Brown is enjoying a bit of a heyday right now with a new show streaming on Netflix called A Call to Courage. She also made a brief appearance in the recent Netflix movie, Wine Country. She has a few publications, but I have decided to go back and read her 2010 bestseller, The Gifts of Imperfection. Forbes included it in their list of the “Five Books That Will Actually Change Your Outlook On Life”. Brown attempts to get us to embrace wholehearted living where we nurture our self-esteem and personal development by letting go of the constant pressure and desire to be perfect. I, myself, am guilty of negatively judging everything I do. I’m hoping this book will help me to change my way of thinking about myself.

Finally, as a keen lover of history, I am eagerly anticipating Hallie Rubenhold’s The Five:The Untold Lives of The Women Killed By Jack The Ripper. Being British, I grew up with stories about Jack the Ripper. If you have never heard of Jack the Ripper, he/she was a serial murderer who preyed on multiple women in 1888. The true identity of this person has never been identified, so the story lives on as a mystery. It is widely believed that he only preyed on prostitutes who generally would not be missed, but this book lifts the lid on that myth and gives the women an identity and a life of their own. We have never heard about the women, the victims, before. As women around the world are learning to find their voice today, I think it is worth considering those women of the past who were silenced.

As I said above, it would be great for others to comment with their planned summer reading in the comments below. We can give each other ideas, share hidden gems, and get inspiration from each other!

If you’re here over the summer, don’t forget about SIWA Book Club! The next meeting is Friday July 12th. The book to be discussed will be Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. Then on Friday August 9th, Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin.

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