There are so many people majoring in regional studies and languages that are beyond the expectations of diversity. Unfortunately, there are also so many cases in which people give up their aspired path against their will when they hit the wall of reality. Among these regrettable cases, Jung Je-hee, a proud alumna of the Department of Persian, has pioneered her own path from nothing by following her passion. She now has become one of the most professional consultant in the field of Iran-related business. The Argus had an interview with Jung, to learn how she could achieve her goals from scratch.
The Argus: Please briefly introduce yourself.
Jung Je-hee (Jung): Hi, my name is Jung Je-hee. I enrolled in the Department of Persian in 2005. Humbly speaking, I am now a Chief Executive Officer of “Iran AtoZ,” an Iran-related business consulting firm.
Iran AtoZ was established to efficiently supply professional Iran-related business services. Now Iran AtoZ has grown to show a high level of professionalism, getting expert-level requests from top-end class government officials and corporations.
The Argus: What made you become so engaged in Iran?
Jung: I always had a dream of traveling and experiencing unknown areas on Earth. Persia, which is Iran nowadays, was literally an unknown frontier to my young eyes since the country never had a lot of links with Korea. The mysteriousness of Iran made my heart beat and led me to join the Department of Persian at HUFS.
Of course I could have chosen the Department of Arabic instead to work in the field of the Middle East. However, Iran’s language is different from the rest of the Middle East, and has a different religious creed as well. Therefore, expertise in Arabic areas would not have had the same effect on Iran. Since there is a severe shortage of expertise regarding Iran, I think that the country still has an unlimited amount of possibilities.
The Argus: How was undergraduate studies at HUFS?
Jung: The curricula and faculty I had in the department were not bad at all. However, it was so heartbreaking to see other people not expressing their expectations to the department as much as I did. Unfortunately, their reactions toward their own major was indifferent, or sometimes unfavorable.
I had scholarship options from other colleges and universities but I chose the Persian major to pursue what I dreamed of. Not only my family members, but also the majority of my friends opposed my decision. My mom decided she would not pay my university tuition for me at all. Since I am the one who made the call, the sense of responsibility and expectations were greater than I could imagine at that time. Greater expectation soon led to greater disappointment and depression, making my undergraduate days extremely unhappy at times.
After graduating from HUFS, I luckily could get a job but I quit after three months since it was irrelevant to my interests. I made another big call here, leaving to Iran in 2011, in pursuit of my passion and unknown possibilities. I wanted to be successful in Iran-related fields and pave the way for later generations yet to come.
The Argus: What were the difficulties while you were in Iran?
Jung: Iran is a theocratic state, which means there are cultural aspects that put oppression on women with Islamic laws. For instance, the word “marry” translates into “take woman” in Iranian. Every woman in Iran, regardless of color and race, was under the effect of Islamic laws. I was even scolded by the on-campus religious militia group, for fluttering my clothes.
Since there is basic suppression against women, freedom of speech for women is not guaranteed. I was studying International Studies at the University of Tehran. The professors at the department were politically and culturally conservative. Once, I criticized the South Korean government for its inappropriate response to the Sewol ferry disaster in 2014. Following that, I was warned by the militias again not to express my political stances.
Above all, I had a lot of trouble learning the language, because women were not allowed to freely socialize with others.
The Argus: How did you overcome these challenging conditions?
Jung: I wanted to give up my career whenever I had to suffer from such limitations. Luckily, I could find a silver lining in my dark days. I thought that if failure is inevitable, I might as well fail after doing what I truly love. I chose my aspirations. This is where I stand. I shall see to the consequences. I made this pledge every time I went to school.
There is no one who always loses, as much as there is no one who always wins. In other words, no one is free from the risk of failure. However, this is the exact reason why one should do what one loves. It could be seen as a failure, but it will become a sturdy foundation for another success.
The Argus: What drove you to establish the firm?
Jung: The Department of Persia came into existence during the 1970’s, but almost none of the alumni could provide professional services before I established Iran AtoZ.
As a result, government branches and enterprises inevitably had to hire untrained native Iranians for professional business deals. To make matters worse, these demands for expertise could not be met. Most of the department alumni were always busy seeking jobs regardless of Iran. It was a vicious circle. I wanted to break the cycle, so that I would take greater chances for my own growth and the younger generations to follow.
The Argus: What plans do you have for your future career?
Jung: Ultimately, I wish I could make an Iran-related business into a highly expertized profession. I have carried out a lot of contracts and requests from well-known enterprises, and even received requests from minister-class government officials. Thus, I am continuously developing my professionalism by all means. There is one more project I have in mind: to provide advanced-level Iranian language classes at the lowest price possible. Not everyone can study where they want to, given reality and one’s bank account. Money must not hinder one’s dream.
The Argus: Do you have any messages to give to readers?
Jung: This might sound so stale, but I want to tell everyone that life never has right or wrong answers. I left for Iran after graduation, so I want readers to believe in themselves and experience everything to find their goals. These two things will bring them up when they fall.
I do not think of myself as an established woman, but as a woman who fights through hardships all the way to reach a goal.
I really admire university students in their 20’s nowadays, for they are incredibly industrious. They always work on their major, English, and extracurricular activities like overseas internships. However, it breaks my heart to see them being so depressed after they fail at job interviews.
It is human nature to fail or collapse if one does not have enough “guts” to stand against the difficulties one will face. What I referred to as “guts” is as important as aspirations.
Jung is leading a very independent, self-made life with strong aspirations toward Iran. Her conviction led her to pioneer and develop unknown possibilities, enduring suffocative adversities. Jung’s exemplary attitude toward her life, “If I do not see a way, I am the one who will make one,” should be learned by all HUFSans.
By Park Ji-yong
Reporter of Campus Section