By Teresa Varley
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward will attend the February 25 inauguration of new South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
Ward had the opportunity to meet Myung-bak in 2006 on his first trip to South Korea when he was the Mayor of Seoul and Ward was thrilled with the invitation to attend his inauguration. Ward and his mother, Kim Young-hee, will again make the trip together.
"It's a big honor for me getting a chance to go there for this," said Ward. "On my first trip to Korea he was the Mayor of Seoul and he gave me my citizenship for a day there. That was an emotional day for my mother and me. I am very excited. To get the invitation to come out there and join him and be a part of it is a great honor."
Ward earned the respect and admiration of the South Korean community after winning MVP honors in Super Bowl XL and visiting the country where he was born in 2006. It was then he started his battle against discrimination against kids of mixed racial ethnicity which is commonplace in that country. Ward is a combination of African America and Korean and as a child he often hid from his Korean background to avoid being teased by other kids.
On his first trip to the country, one where he was covered by the media like a touring rock star, he introduced his foundation – The Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation.
Ward will host a concert while he is there in conjunction with MTV and the proceeds will go to his foundation, which is run through the Pearl Buck Foundation and was created to fight discrimination of biracial children in Korea.
For the second year Ward brought a group of Korean kids to Pittsburgh, where they spent time with him and were his guests at a Steelers game.
"It's important for my foundation to let society know I am still an active part in the Korean community for the biracial kids," said Ward. "Not only am I going over there to take part in the inauguration, I am going over there to meet the kids who visited Pittsburgh and get their insight, take them out to dinner. I also want to go to the Pearl Buck home in Korea. I just want to communicate with the kids. That's what it's all about."
Ward will also take some personal time during the trip to enjoy the country with his mother, hopefully without the glare of cameras surrounding them.
"It's a blessing for my mother and me," said Ward. "It gives us a chance to go back and rekindle and reflect back on how far we came and where it all started. I really want to get a chance to relax. Hopefully it won't be as crazy as it was the first couple of times. I want my mom and I to be able to sit back and relax and enjoy.
"It's much easier now to go back. I want to go back to some of the same restaurants. It's more about just relaxing. The first few trips I was on the go all of the time. I will be there for about five days relaxing and having fun with my mom."