Zippy’s Friends piloting in Korea
Zippy’s Friends has been introduced into Korea by the Mental Health Welfare Centre in Gwangju, in the south of the country. The city, the sixth largest in Korea, is famous for its defence of democracy, and in 1980 witnessed a demonstration against the military dictatorship of the time, resulting in hundreds of deaths. It’s now a centre of excellence for mental health, and the first place to implement mental health promotion in Korean elementary schools.
Korean children start school aged seven, and last year, the Centre had tested Zippy with Year 1 (7 – 8 year-olds). Although their research found that the children’s coping skills increased, they weren’t entirely happy with the results, and this year are piloting in Year 2. This is going much more smoothly, and Ha-Neul and Min-Yi of the Centre feel this is the right age group for the programme in Korea. I watched a class of 22 lively boys and girls doing a session from Module 5 about death.
Although this is a taboo subject in Korea (children are sometimes told, for example, that granny has ‘gone to America’), the children were full of ideas about how to feel better after the loss of a pet: read a book, write a letter to the dead pet, make a grave, use my pocket money to buy a new pet, put it in the freezer to preserve it(!), read or sleep on my comfy bed. When one child said ‘Delete from my memory,’ another child said, ‘That’s really difficult.’
The group of psychologists and teachers who attended our presentation on mental health and Zippy’s Friends were interested and keen to learn more. We hope that they will help spread the programme widely across Korea in future years.