As I had come to Korea well before the semester was set to begin (March 3rd), I had ample time and little idea what to do with it. My Korean friend with whom I’d planned spending most of my time ended up being much busier than he had originally thought. Now I had three weeks in Daegu and was unsure what to do. Last summer, I had stayed in Empathy Guesthouse in downtown Daegu, and they’d just opened a new branch- Empathy Dongseongno Hostel. I decided to stay there.
When I stepped through the entrance to the hostel, the staff immediately recognized me, greeting me with warm smiles. I felt like I was already at home even though I’d never been to this location before. I was shown to my dormitory-style room, where I rested after a day of travel. That night, I was feeling a little bored and a little lonely. Then, I heard a knock on my door. The staff invited me to share their dinner. A little effort on both sides to communicate in a mixture of English, Korean, and Spanish led to some fun conversations assisted by the ample use of body-language.
During my three weeks at Empathy Dongseongno, I was treated like a member of their family. We ate, drank, played games, and even went on a day trip to Andong. The Empathy staff showed true generosity to me when I was going through a rather difficult time and were patient with my shyness. They pushed me to practice my Korean so that we could better communicate. I visited a couple times during my semester and also attended a presentation by a former North Korean dancer who used to perform at parties there.
While talking with some of the guesthouse staff, I learned more about the fact that Empathy Guesthouse was founded by the Center for North Korean defectors and that twenty percent of its profits go toward supporting resettlement programs. Empathy Guesthouse is a social enterprise, which refers to a company that sells or produces goods or services as a means to raise the local community’s quality of life by providing jobs or social services to vulnerable members of society. On top of that, Empathy SEEDS works to increase tourism and international exchange in Daegu. After learning about these efforts, I began to appreciate this enterprise and my new family even more.
If you find yourself in Daegu, be sure to stay at Empathy!