2001: Stability in South Korea

In 1997, Jong-rok Lee’s family of 10 was affected by the East Asian financial crisis, like so many Korean families. In debt because of a loan taken to buy a fruit farm, the family had no choice but to live with six relatives in a one-bedroom house.

Four years later, the family was working together to build a home through Habitat Korea. Neither 69-year-old Lee or his 59-year-old wife Soon-sun Moon had any construction experience, but they were keen to learn.

Their two daughters, who were aged 22 and 20 at the time, also chipped in. Despite the fact that Lee lives with a physical disability, they not only completed 500 hours of sweat equity on their own house, but were able to help other families building during the 2001 Carter Work Project in Asan, one of six sites that year. A total of 136 houses were built.

After moving into their Habitat house, Moon started a dispatch service business together with her eldest daughter In-mi. The business initially did well, but unfortunately ran into problems and had to close.

Instead of feeling down and out, they say, Lee and Moon were thankful that they still had a house to live in. “Our Habitat home gives us a solid foundation in life,” Moon says. “With that, we can do anything.”

Influenced by Moon’s positive thinking, her children and husband have worked hard to be debt-free and finished paying off all of their debts in 2012.

As a sign of her perseverance, Moon singlehandedly planted nearly 30 native and flowering trees in the Carter Work Project community. She also now holds two jobs, taking care of neighborhood children in the morning and driving some of them to and from a music institute nearby. Lee stays busy planning events or activities whenever social gatherings are held for the local disabled community.

“We have stability in this house,” says Lee, “which enables us to solve problems wisely together as a family. We are very grateful for our home.”