The UNICOM project has brought together a social integration expert and CYF Digital, a Turku-based developer of digital integration services.

Suik Jung, who has been living in Turku for several years with his family, has always been interested in social integration and well-being. After completing his bachelor’s degree at Pusan University in Korea, Suik headed to Nairobi for a year to volunteer at a refugee camp. Later, he found himself in Norway’s University of Tromsø, working on his master’s degree focused on the integration of North Korean refugees in South Korea.

Suik is now working on his PhD thesis on the same topic at the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku. Despite his busy schedule, there was enough room for a month-long industry placement period under the UNICOM project.

“I have worked in value-based companies before, and what inspired me to apply was the opportunity to develop integration solutions for CYF Digital,” says Suik.

The idea for CYF Digital came about during a volunteering project in 2015. Back then, the company’s current CEO Susanna Lahtinen was working for a Turku School of Economics course project aiming to prevent the societal marginalisation of refugees.

“The project received a lot of attention, we got to present it to Facebook, the US State Department and even the White House, all the way up to President Barack Obama,” Susanna says.

Straightforward help for moving

CYF Digital’s current focus is on the Mobiililuotsi app. It allows people moving to a new place to find necessary information quickly and easily, whether they are looking for a place to live, a new job, or information about public services and opportunities provided by companies and voluntary associations.

The service is currently available in Finnish, English and Ukrainian. It functions as a supporting platform alongside public services and local businesses, helping users find the services they need.

“The Mobiililuotsi app adapts to the user’s needs. By answering a questionnaire, the app will recommend you services based on your age, education, familial status, and other factors,” Susanna explains.

During his time at CYF Digital, Suik has familiarised himself with similar applications in other countries, studying their features and usability. The work is done not only to map out the competitive landscape, but to also be on the lookout for potential partnerships.

Apart from his research interests, Suik, who has lived in Australia, Korea, Kenya, and Norway before coming to Finland, has a wealth of personal experiences on immigration himself.

According to Susanna, this has been a crucial element in the development of Mobiililuotsi.

“We were actually looking to fill a completely different position for the industry placement, but we just could not pass up on Suik’s expertise and first-hand knowledge of immigration issues,” Susanna says with a laugh.

Migration is a process of adaptation

Although a person coming to a country under a refugee status may have a different starting point than someone moving for work, Suik explains that the process of adaptation is still similar.

Naturally, there are differences, as refugees generally do not have the opportunity to choose their new home country, while those who move for their work or studies have more options. There is also a fierce competition for new talent between countries.

“However, once they’re settled, all migrants certainly feel a need to understand how the country and its different systems really work,” Suik says.

Suik and his family live a few kilometres from the centre of Turku. The first things he and his wife focused on were finding day-care for their children and understanding how to get around in the city. The family is also enamoured with Finnish nature, and they regularly go mushroom picking in the autumn.

Suik, who has spent a year in Australia working as a chef, has found some strong favourites in Finnish cuisine.

“I love the salmon and the Karelian pasties.”

Appealing values

Suik says that the Finnish society takes good care of its people. He particularly appreciates the pedagogical support for children’s individual growth and development, and the overall culture of equality.

The Nordic countries, Finland included, have a good reputation in Korea. Suik believes it is good for children to grow up in the country that has been declared happiest in the world.

“From primary school onwards, Korea has strict hierarchies, a pressure to perform, and a competitive atmosphere. Here the environment is more relaxed, and people interact on an equal footing, regardless of their status.”

Nevertheless, some things came as a surprise. Suik finds the Finns have a social distancing rule in place, one that’s not linked to COVID-19. During an everyday discussion, Suik’s colleague may be standing a metre away. Naturally, Suik will take a step forward.

“Then the colleague will take a step back to keep the distance,” Suik says and shakes his head with a smile.

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Original text: Heidi Horila
Translation: Turku Business Region
Video production: Mama Creative