Kim Hye-ja: Harnessing Fame to Help Children in Poor Countries

    March 26, 2009 07:41

    Kim Hye-ja
    The actress Kim Hye-ja returned from a week-long trip to Tonz in southern Sudan, where she visited a camp of people displaced by the country's prolonged civil wars.

    "I used to be a pessimist. I didn’t know why I had to live," she said. "But when I meet children in Africa and think about them, it makes me question myself. I don't usually go abroad to meet strangers, but I do this to help the children. Because I'm an actress who's loved by many people, what I say will be heard and sound convincing. I'm grateful that I can be of use to serve a good cause."

    Since independence from Britain, southern Sudan has been plagued by civil wars for over 20 years. It has one of the world's lowest health and human development indices. "The flight takes over 20 hours. They only have uneven dirt roads. You arrive there, look around you, and think about what you can do to help the children there. All they've got is porridge mixed with vitamin powder and malaria medicine. If doctors don't come to them, the children will die," she said.

    Kim, who is hugely popular in Korea for her mostly maternal roles, first went to Africa in 1992 when evangelical charity World Vision suggested she accompany a group of relief team to Ethiopia. "At that time, I thought of the trip as a vacation for relaxation. But when I arrived there, it was so shocking. I couldn't believe how human beings could live in such conditions. For 10 days, I cried all day," she recalls.

    Since then, she has gone on a volunteer mission as a goodwill ambassador for the Christian organization almost every year, traveling to Africa, India and Bangladesh.

    "When I first began my career as an actress, my father told me that just as Tolstoy did in literature, actors can play an influential role in people's lives," she added. "He encouraged me that a word from an actor can be more powerful than 10 words from a mouth of a politician."

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