Back from Venezuela


Venezuela is a land of vitality. People campaign through crowded streets. From the crowds, people shout, “Revolution!” What shock, to see a people free from the “red complex.” People yell socialism at the top of their voices with a passionate glimmer in their eyes. I envy it all: Expressing oneself so openly would be impossible in Korea. 16 years of the revolutionary process have yielded great changes. Many more are surely needed. That’s what imbues Venezuela with such great potential. When I visited the health agencies in Venezuela, I was first disappointed that most of the doctors were not Venezuelan but Cuban. However, the disappointment quickly melted away by the ardor and energy of the Cuban doctors.

“Because that’s how we were taught,” responded the Cuban doctors. That is why they went where needed in the world. Far from home, in another country, in remote villages, in areas of public unrest - they didn’t hesitate to serve where they were needed.  When I asked them how they could live like that, they responded, “Where I come from, we are all like this. We learned that to act this way is natural.” These words left a deep impression in me, who had doubted whether socialism was possible. Such sentiments and action was something I’d not yet witnessed: Rather than pursuing the immediate profits before them, they were driven by a humanitarian mission based on love for humanity.

In Venezuela, for one commune to form, various smaller community councils must form through months and even years of dialogue and consensus building. Such process becomes a great asset. That various community councils came together into a commune was not mentioned in the books I read. I was moved by the realization that I was living amidst a community had had to overcome their differences and conflicts to create unity.

What I gained from my trip to Venezuela was faith in humanity. I, who without knowing, was becoming cynical of people, got to witness that dialogue and cooperation are still possible: people can put aside their immediate interests to realize something much larger. There is hope.

Minji Kim (doctor at the Association of Humanitarian Practice)