Interview with Mrs. Konul Teymurova, the former President of Ambassador Spouses` Association in Seoul (ASAS)
- Please introduce yourself?
-Before answering your question, I would like to thank your magazine and yourself for having me as your guest. Answering your question, I would start with the famous quote that says “It is not about how long you live; but how well you lived”. I believe this adage is a fair summary of human life that addresses the failures and successes of individuals, as well as their challenges.
In my case, I should say that my childhood and youthful days were marked with the dramatic and tragic moments of my country which resulted in our transition from socialism to the modern period of development. To be more specific, when I was a secondary school student, I was one of those Young Pioneers who were at their early stages of being groomed to become successful Soviet citizens. However, this period ended very shortly with the collapse of Soviets which followed by the attainment of independence by Azerbaijan. Becoming an independent country definitely should be the happiest moment of my life but unfortunately neither I nor my friends could enjoy this independence of our country in the early years due to the conflict with Armenia, our neighbor.
The city that my family and I stayed was located very close to the conflict affected areas. Unfortunately, the conflict resulted with occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories which caused the hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani people becoming refugees or Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). The said tragic situation unfortunately directly affected my education.
One day we woke up early morning preparing to go to the school but found out that our school has become a shelter for refugees and there was no school for some time. Later on, it was decided to have classes in the corridors of the school because there were no available classrooms. I cannot express how complicated and tragic the situation was. Those years my classmates and I had classes only twice every week.
Moreover, there was a lack of electricity and natural gas, so it made our education even more complicated. Despite all the distresses I never gave up, and although I studied in desperate circumstance such as studying with candlelight, I got accepted to the University in 1998.
My meetings with the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross during the conflict inspired me to study in English, so I achieved my ambition to become a student of Azerbaijan University of Languages. After graduating from the University, I got married and lived in Azerbaijan for a while, then we moved to the United States of America (USA) because of my husband’s assignment. When he completed his diplomatic mission in the USA we relocated back home again, and I began to work as a librarian in the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Within a short period of time, I got promoted to be a head of the circulation services in the library. Two years later we moved to Vienna, Austria due to my husband’s appointment to our Embassy in Vienna. In 2013, we were delighted to hear that my husband was appointed as a Charge d’ Affairs at our Embassy in Seoul where he was promoted and became Ambassador of Azerbaijan to the Republic of Korea in 2014.
- What are some of the challenges of being Ambassador’s wife?
-First of all, I must mention that the responsibilities of the Ambassador’s wife are quite more like a diplomat’s wife. Although there are no assigned duties for Ambassador’s spouse in my country, it is our civic responsibility to make a good impression and create an attractive image of our country. It is always necessary to enlighten the local people about our history, culture, heritage, traditions and values. It is very important to participate in, and organize traditional and social events with the Embassy. In 2015, I made a decision to continue my education here in Korea and I became a student at the Sungkyunkwan University, Graduate School of Business. All Ambassadors’ spouses as well as many Korean friends were very surprised by my decision to continue my education after a very long gap. This shows the strong will and resoluteness of Azerbaijani women as well. I always say that Ambassador’s wife can positively affect the image of her country with her actions including those that are related to their personal life.
Although it was challenging to keep a balance between student life and being Ambassador’s wife, I worked really hard to overcome it. I would like to emphasize that my student life was also a good example for my sons to emulate. When they saw me studying hard, it motivated them to also excel academically.
- What are the objectives of Ambassador Spouses` Association in Seoul (ASAS)?
-I joined to the Ambassador Spouses` Association in Seoul when I arrived here in 2013. There are more than 100 Ambassadors and chiefs of diplomatic missions, and more than 50 spouses of then are the members of ASAS. Because of my active participation in the organization I was elected as a vice president of ASAS in 2017. Talking about the ASAS, I should inform your audience that ASAS is a non-profit organization where the Executive Committee is responsible for implementation of ASAS’s program. Executive Committee is consisted of the President, Vice President, Executive Secretary, Treasurer and Coordinators. The main objectives of ASAS are to initiate philanthropic fundraising activities to the benefit of needy organizations in Korea and organize educational, recreational, social and cultural activities for ASAS members and the citizens of the host country. There are also monthly meetings where we discuss our schedules and projects.
- What are some of the projects of ASAS?
-On 18th May 2017, we successfully hosted the first charity ball of ASAS with participation of more than 270 guests. I am happy to say that two Azerbaijani companies operating in Korea, namely Silkway Cargo Airlines and Buta financially assisted our event. Organizing and hosting such an event was really challenging but with over four months of hard work and determination we achieved our aim. A total of 50 million KRW was raised at the charity and donated to the Korea Down Syndrome Society.
I was elected as a President of ASAS in September 2017. Besides all social and cultural events I was involved with, I commenced organizing a second charity ball. As an outcome of the charity ball, 30 million KRW was raise which we donated to the Seung Ga Won Welfare Center. We raised enough to also fund other planned annual events like the Christmas Concert for the Korea Down Syndrome Society.
As the President of ASAS and Ambassador’s wife, I participated in monthly activities organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The spouses of ministers and the prime minister of Korea also take in part in this event. During this meeting we sew handbags which we present together with other useful products as gifts to poor families, older people and children who are deprived of parental care and live with their grandparents.. ASAS also participates in charity bazaars such as Seoul International Women`s Bazaar and Red Cross Bazaar. In order to support Korea Down Syndrome Society, we organize the monthly presentation of different countries for children who are not able to go abroad due to their condition. My contribution for these activities include presentations which I did twice. The first presentation was themed Baking Day. Participants were taught how to cook national sweets of Azerbaijan, and for the second presentation participants were treated to interesting Azerbaijani traditional games.
In February 2019, I decided to step down from position as the president of ASAS and let my colleagues to continue this journey. It was my sixth year in Korea so I decided to spend quality time with my family and also take time to enjoy the beauty of Korea following the busy past years of activities in capacity of both, as a spouse of Ambassador and as the President of ASAS.
- What is your advice for foreigners in Korea and people thinking about studying in Korea?
-Education is necessary for everyone. As a former student in Korea, I strongly advise all foreigners to take advantage of Korean education and experience. High and systematic lifestyle, rules, behaviours of people are a good example to take, and apply in their country. The exchange of culture with Korean people will always help to the personal development as well.
Key Words (at least 5): Azerbaijan, charity ball, Ambassador Spouses` Association in Seoul
Summary: This is an interview with Mrs. Konul Teymurova, the wife of the Ambassor of Azerbajan to Korea and the former President of Ambassador Spouses` Association in Seoul