Friday, December 19, 2008

Education of North Korean teen defectors

North Korean teenager Han Jee-hee's journey to school in South Korea began by slipping past border guards into China where she went into hiding to avoid forcible repatriation home.

Han eventually made it to South Korea, and the 19-year-old is among more than 200 North Koreans studying at the Hangyoreh Junior and Senior High School, set up by South Korea to prepare the young defectors for the huge changes they face living in a capitalist state.

The students, wearing the school's stylish blue blazers, on average have missed nearly four years of school during their escape from the North. After reaching China, they typically went into hiding and then made their way to a third country from where they sought passage to South Korea.

Up until the first students came to the school when it opened in 2006, the government did not have any special curriculum for the defectors, who were usually so overwhelmed by schools in the South that they simply dropped out.

Students stay from six months to two years at the Hangyoreh school before making the transition to a regular school, or starting a job.


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