KOREA | Russian speaking teens in Korea make up a commonly overlooked marginalized community. I CAN! is an impactful program designed to encourage and equip these teens with practical tools and principles like understanding God’s role in our finances and how to start a business. This program is leading these teens out of isolation, depression and hopelessness as they are restored by an understanding of who they are in Christ and the freedom He has for them.
Irina Tsay and Aaron Kim share a heart for the Koryo people of Korea, a group of around 100,000 ethnic Korean descendants, originating from the former Soviet republics who now live in Korea.
Many Koryo people are highly educated and make up the elite in their country; however, due to the language barrier and issues of assimilation, they have been in labor-intensive roles around the manufacturing hubs of Korea. Many of the teenagers also struggle with assimilation, the language barrier, and alienation. Marginalized and neglected, these teens have to fend for themselves.
Last year, equipped with new-to-her Crown resources (thanks to Aaron’s introduction), Irina started the I CAN! teens club in Korea for Russian-speaking teens. With the help of the international team at Crown, they hosted the first cohort of 15 girls and boys from the ages of 11 to 17 over two days.
Personal finance makes up the first two sessions at I CAN! based on Crown’s MoneyLife® Personal Finance Study. Many of the participants reported that this was their first realization that God is a part of our finances. By starting with the understanding that God is the owner and we are simply the managers, it opens the door for the students’ hearts to be transformed. The personal finance sessions conclude with generosity, with a focus on God’s personal sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus.
During sessions three and four the students move into two days of competitions. Four business cases are presented and the teams compete for investments in the form of a pitch, similar to Shark Tank. The case studies are conceptualized in a way that Koryo teenagers can understand best.
Aaron later shared with us: “We are so thankful to God who made this seminar happen. I will need a few more days for the impressions to settle down and to absorb what God is doing in the middle of the Koryo teens in Korea. Thank you to our Crown family for your prayer support. God’s presence was undeniable. One student even mentioned that the seminar felt like a church. As Irina summarized, ‘“I CAN!” This could be more than a seminar but rather a teenage movement (or an awakening) down the road.’ I say: totally… absolutely and why not!”
“These days were very special…Stone-hard hearts melted, and some have taken on new perspectives. Others dealing with depression started to laugh and sing again, and once-worried parents smiled at first in joy only to break out in laughter minutes later. I feel very privileged and grateful for being able to serve this special community. I CAN! is, in so many ways, a unique gathering, and the impact it had on those young faces is special to me. I loved every moment of it, and I am still reminiscing of our time together. God used Irina and myself as empty vessels to do what He had intended to do, which is answering desperate prayers for the next generation of Koryo people.” – Aaron
“The results of the seminar were fantastic! We have received a lot of positive feedback from teens and their parents, including non-Christians. Moreover, there is a new initiative from parents of another city in Korea, Gyeongju, who asked us to hold one more seminar there. This city has even more hurting teens, and the majority of them are non-Christians.” -Irina