Exchange Brings Korean Social Worker to NASW

Soojung KimKASW’s Soojung Kim is spending time at NASW’s national office in Washington. Kim’s visit as a SWAN exchange professional realizes the associations’ memorandum of understanding to foster cooperation and advance the social work profession internationally.

Through its Social Workers Across Nations professional exchange program, NASW’s National Office has hosted Soojung Kim, manager of the international relations department of the Korea Association of Social Workers, since April.

Kim’s time here is meant as a way for her to experience NASW’s efforts to support and sustain the professional social work workforce in the U.S. and then help her own association apply best practices.

It’s also an opportunity for NASW to learn more about how KASW, which has more than 300,000 social worker members, promotes the practice in Korea.

She reports back weekly to her colleagues with KASW, which is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. Early in her exchange, Kim reported on NASW’s PACE program, its teleconference offerings and the 2010 Social Work Congress, among other things.

“In many ways, the work of the two associations is very similar in that both strive to enhance the professional growth and development of their members,” Kim told NASW News. “But there also are some big differences.”

For example, Kim said she was surprised by how engaged NASW is in political advocacy and international affairs. She says KASW only recently started getting involved in political advocacy, and no staff are dedicated solely to lobbying.

Kim, who arrived just in time for the 2010 Social Work Congress, also appreciated that leaders of the profession here take the time to review progress and form collective imperatives for the future.

She said although KASW has an annual conference, the two groups organize their events in different ways.

During her stay, Kim also is working with NASW’s Human Rights and International Affairs Division to develop new projects and programs that the two associations can collaborate on, including exchange programs between social workers in both countries.

“The roles of social workers in Korea and here in the U.S. are basically the same, but our welfare systems differ,” said Kim, who also noted similarities in the issues social workers deal with in both countries.

Kim “brings with her a wealth of expertise and experience,” said NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark. “NASW couldn’t be more delighted to host her.”