Is learning to use mobile phones, credit cards and surf the net easier than slipping past border guards and going into hiding before fleeing to a safe haven?
North Korean teenager Han Jee-hee left behind family, friends and a broken education system where schools have a curriculum steeped in extolling communist ideology. The 19-year-old, who fled first to China before reaching South Korea, is among more than 200 North Koreans studying at the Hangyoreh Junior and Senior High School, set up to prepare the young defectors for the huge changes they face living in a capitalist state.
The students, wearing the school's blue blazers, have missed an average of 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. Almost all have emotional scars from their harrowing escapes.
Besides academic courses, the students learn how to surf the internet as well as how to use basic tools of the modern world such as credit cards. Civic groups, many of them Christian-based, have also tried to help by setting up private schools for defectors.