Thursday, October 21, 2010

North Korean defector with determination

Han Jae-suk, a 31-year-old North Korean defector, has endured an odyssey in her effort to resettle in South Korea. The journey has included living for a year and a half in the basement of the South Korean Consulate in Shenyang, China, and studying 12 hours a day in Seoul as part of her training for a new career. 
Han in many ways represents the North Korean defector with resolve, courage and determination. Han is a video editor with a small enterprise, who returns home after 11 p.m each night. She isn’t working late hours, but she has been taking lessons in recent months to get a driver’s license.

It will be one of a handful of certifications Han has earned since arriving in Seoul in November 2008. She has obtained licenses certifying proficiency in Microsoft Office and other computer skills, and she has learned accounting, graphic design and visual media.

“I just did my best to learn as many fields as possible, because those licenses are only a small portion of rudimentary skills that South Koreans have and I need to keep up with them to survive,” said Han.

After being discharged from Hanawon -- the state-run, mandatory resettlement center for North Korean defectors -- Han started waiting tables at a restaurant. In less than a month, she realized the job was far from what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. She registered with a hagwon, a private academy, to learn graphic design because drawing had been one of her longtime hobbies. And when the 12-hour graphic design classes were finished, she headed to an accounting academy because defector friends advised her that learning the field would facilitate her job search. After six months, Han was employed as a bookkeeper at a small firm, and she worked there for three months. She then enrolled in an acedmy for a year to learn visual media. Her visual media lessons led Han to her current job editing video - an occupation she is enthusiastic about.

The single woman said leaving North Korea was one of the best choices she has made in her life. “Whatever the circumstance, I can at least enjoy basic things enjoyed by others if I try hard,” she said with a shy grin. “Up there [in North Korea], it is very hard, however hard I tried. I have kept it a rule here to work during daytime and learn at night,” she said.


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