• Hayoung PARK | Communication Assistant, IOM Republic of Korea

Republic of Korea - Imagine leaving your home and navigating the complexities of a whole new society abroad.

In 2007, Davaadorj Avirmed, who had just graduated from the university, embarked on the journey from Mongolia to the Republic of Korea (ROK) with her Korean husband. "Communication and cultural differences challenged me in ways I had never expected. It made me wonder why I chose to migrate to a different country for marriage in the first place," she said, recalling the time when she just arrived in ROK 16 years ago.

Despite hoping to start her career in the new country, Davaadorj Avirmed’s diploma from Mongolia was not sufficient enough to find decent jobs in ROK, blocking her from unleashing her full professional potentials. No matter what she did and where she went, Davaadorj Avirmed was only seen as a marriage migrant woman, creating even more barriers in finding the job she wanted. However, she reached a turning point when she landed a job as an assistant for event planning and logistics management.  On top of the new job, she enrolled herself in university to study social welfare, hoping to find a more professional employment opportunity in the future. Striking a balance between taking care of two children and pursuing her career and education was not easy, but she didn’t give up. “Each challenge eventually became a steppingstone, shaping my identity and strengthening my resolve.”

©Davaadorj Avirmed

After obtaining her second bachelor's degree in ROK, Davaadorj went on to apply for a master’s degree, as she realized that studying social welfare matched her interest. Her persistent effort led her to become a social worker at the Naju Family Center in Jeollanam-do. Now, she is managing projects related to multicultural family support and marriage, as well as migrant empowerment. "It didn’t happen overnight. I developed my career step by step while getting experience from scratch and studying related fields. It took some time to become a certified social worker," she said. “People around me, including my family and my colleagues at work, helped me a lot to adjust to Korean society. It was their support that encouraged me to continue developing my skills and knowledge.”

©Davaadorj Avirmed

As Davaadorj’s career blossomed, so did her life. “With my improved proficiency in Korean, I also became more capable of connecting with people. My social relationships deepened, and I found myself breaking down barriers in Korean society." Working as a social worker, she felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. “I decided to become a social worker because I wanted to work with people who needed help like I did. It is rewarding to feel like I am fulfilling my goal as a social worker by managing diverse projects and positively impacting the lives of multicultural families, as well as supporting migrant women and their families who are struggling with communication and cultural differences. I’m also glad that I’m showing other migrant women that we can do it.”

©Davaadorj Avirmed

While working as a social worker, Davaadorj Avirmed passionately advocates for women's empowerment, assisting marriage-migrant women in finding a job in ROK, not only to make livings, but also to help them accomplish their dreams. Last year, she founded an association for migrant women to promote stability and improve perceptions of migrant women. “Still, a lot of people don’t know much about migrant women. Often treated as foreigners, we are also the members of Korean society, and I hope migrant women can stand on their own feet. There are a lot of talented migrant women here in ROK, and including them in the workplace will be the benefit for both migrant women and Korean society.”

©Davaadorj Avirmed

Davaadorj Avirmed’s dream is to expand the work of the association beyond providing education and cultural experience service, so that it can offer more opportunities for migrant women to engage with a wider world. For her, it is not just a business but her way to improve human rights through empowering and investing in migrant women, so that they can protect themselves and make voices for their own rights. "There is nothing impossible for migrant women. Learning and adapting may be difficult, but one step at a time, we can overcome all the challenges. Don’t doubt yourself, because we can achieve many things.”

This story was written by Hayoung PARK, Communication Assistant, IOM Republic of Korea,

SDG 5 - Gender Equality
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities