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A female college student뭩 death in a foreign country
DECEMBER 03, 2013 09:28  
A man recently had his daughter, who is on a Ph.D. course at a prestigious British university, return to Korea. She lived only a few subway stations away but one day, she got a sprained ankle on her way home. A young man who was nearby helped her. He said he would take her home but she declined the offer. People in other countries do not let strangers know where they live. She gave her contact and he called her and had coffee with her. But it was not the end. The man kept calling her, not to mention sending text messages. The more she tried to avoid him, the more persistent he became. He even appeared in the campus, turning into a stalker. She had a hunch that he could harm her unless she meets him. She asked her father in Seoul for help. Her father who is a university professor told her to take time off and return to Korea. Her father who knows how tough it is to study abroad alone was relieved after his daughter came home. He is not sure whether to send his daughter to the U.S. or let her study in Korea.

Family safety was a nagging concern for me while I was a Washington correspondent for three years. I took a wrong road while driving after having a dinner in downtown Washington D.C. I still vividly remember a stranger뭩 scary look on a quiet road. I lived in a safe neighborhood in North Virginia but I was always concerned during my stay in the U.S. Scare can be felt even by those who have a fixed residential place such as resident employees and diplomats, not to mention those who stay for a short term. Last summer, hundreds of college students from China and Eastern Europe, who worked at a Hershey chocolate factory in Pennsylvania, took to the street. The New York Times covered the story. It was a protest against the poor working environment and unfair treatment. They participated in a program that offers four-months work and one-month travel to learn English but they were in fact worked off their feet with the payment of seven dollars per hour.

It is heartbreaking to hear the story of a female college student from Busan who left to Australia for a working holiday program a month ago but killed by an Australian man, a 19-year-old Australian youth. It would be less sad if she lost the dream of learning English and travelling after making money. But she lost her life in a foreign country. At 3:30 a.m., she left for work alone. It is such a serious problem because anybody can be a victim. She probably thought that Australia is like Busan or Jeju Island. It is common in multicultural cities in the U.S. to see people going home from work at 5 p.m., nobody walking alone in dark, and everybody smiling to a stranger to his hostility.

Hundreds of thousands of young people are joining a working holiday program every year. Today뭩 college students may be packing their bag, dreaming big. However, it is almost impossible to get a decent job for Korean college students in English-speaking countries like the U.S., Australia, and the U.K. We cannot expect what American college students make in Korea by teaching English in Korea two million won (1,890 dollars) per month. The problem is not just students who go abroad to make money by washing dishes and running an errand and learn English but also the government which has no measure to take. Is there any reason why the students who are not affluent enough to study abroad and even go to a one-year exchange student program risk their own life for the sake of English. They should not thoughtlessly pack their bag. It is especially so for women. I am so heartbroken and angry about the female college student뭩 death.

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