Worlds Apart, A Common Mission

colleagues from Korea at NASWSoojung Kim, far left, greeted colleagues from Korea at an NASW visit in November. Amy Bess, far right, senior practice associate for human rights and international affairs at NASW, led the group on a tour of the office.

On the other side of the world, shortly after the sun rises over the Korean peninsula, staff of the Korea Association of Social Workers in Seoul, South Korea, arrive at work to conduct much of the same type of business that NASW staff will work on in Washington about 13 hours later.

The associations share a common purpose: to improve the quality of the social work profession in their respective countries, enhance the professional growth and development of their members and advance policies that improve overall social welfare.

They also face similar challenges. Just as NASW works to promote passage of the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act, KASW has been advocating for passage of legislation in South Korea that would, among other things, increase social workers’ salaries, according to Soojung Kim, KASW’s international relations manager.

Kim has been in the NASW national office since April 2010 observing how the U.S. association supports and sustains the professional social work workforce. In October, she gave NASW staff an in-depth presentation comparing the two associations.

Soojung Kim“Happy social workers make people happy,” proclaims the title slide of Soojung Kim’s PowerPoint presentation about KASW.

Her stay, made possible through NASW’s Social Workers Across Nations professional exchange program, also provides an opportunity for NASW staff to learn more about KASW and the social work profession in Korea.

Members of KASW, who participated in the Overseas Training for Social Workers Project, visited NASW’s national office in November to learn how the association operates. Besides NASW, the team participated in field-trip visits to different agencies that specialize in family- and child-related policy issues.

In addition to the nation’s capital, the group made stops in Rochester, N.Y.; Fairfax, Va.; and Bethesda, Md.