Meet Yobo and his family. Yobo’s family has lived in Korea for 14 years.
Originally from the African country of Togo, Yobo came from an affluent family. But everything changed in 2005, when President Gnassingbé Eyadéma passed away after ruling the country for 38 years.
Eyadéma’s son, Faure Gnassingbé, was installed as president by the military. Yobo’s father and brother were part of a group that protested this passing of power, and they were killed.
Fearing for his own life, Yobo took his wife and daughter and fled the country. Remembering his times studying in Korea, Yobo decided to move his whole family there.
Once the family arrived in Korea, Yobo took any job he could get. His wife is unable to work due to knee pains, so it was Yobo’s responsibility alone. From manual labor to factory work, Yobo did everything he could to support the family.
Finances got even tighter once their son was born. To make ends meet, Yobo started selling used electronics to his friends from Africa when they would come to visit.
This didn’t stop Yobo from letting his children pursue their dreams, however, and his 15-year-old daughter, Blessing, wants to be an actress.
Blessing studies acting from home by watching videos online.
One day, the family was contacted by an agency who saw Blessing’s photo posted online. They wanted to sign Blessing to their agency but, in order to do so, Yobo would have to pay 300,000 KRW (roughly $280 USD) as a signing fee. He did.
The agency then notified Yobo that they required an additional 800,000 (roughly $750 USD) to take professional headshots of Blessing. Having no money to spare, Yobo refused. The family found out later that a real agency would not ask for money.
Sadly, after paying the agency signing fee, Yobo could not pay the family’s gas bill, but despite the fraudulent nature of the transaction, Yobo was unable to get his 300,000 KRW returned from the “agency” to pay for the bill.
Despite the setback, the family wasn’t swayed. Thinking of it as a lesson learned, Blessing is currently preparing to audition for an acting school.
Yobo’s 9-year old son, Wisdom, is also facing some hardship. Although he may have a different skin color from his friends, he was born in Korea, and he considers himself Korean.
Wisdom cannot receive his Korean citizenship however, as Yobo is not recognized as a refugee, but Wisdom also left the country of Togo before birth, so he is not recognized as a Togo citizen. Therefore, Wisdom has no country of citizenship.
Yobo is doing everything he can to change that. He is currently studying to become a naturalized Korean citizen so his son can be acknowledged as Korean as well.
The family doesn’t even qualify for health insurance because of their status. Yobo doesn’t ever go to the hospital to avoid paying expensive medical bills. He just takes whatever medicine he can find at the local pharmacy.
Here’s hoping for better times ahead for Yobo and his family!