NKHR continued to run its programs throughout 2020, although few times in limited capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions. Most of the meetings for the North Korean resettlers took place at our office, in small group settings and occasionally through online platforms. The North Korean students experience more problems with online classes in comparison to their South Korean peers and they cannot count on assistance from their North Korean parents who are not technologically savvy as well. Additional assistance was provided by Education Team and its volunteers to make sure the North Korean students are not left behind in times of pandemic when technological gaps cause additional disadvantages.
- South and North Korean University Student Leadership Club
Monthly Leadership Club meetings are held for North Korean students resettling in South Korea. The club is an opportunity for students to read literature that was not allowed in North Korea and to discuss many current socio-political issues with their South Korean counterparts. Although Club meetings could not be held until July due to the spread of the Covid-19, NKHR officers took the chance to reorganize and enhance the program. NKHR developed plans to add more Humanities studies in the discussion, which would allow participating students to have a deeper understanding of aspects of human society, culture and themselves.
The Leadership Program was held on July 25, August 15, September 12 September 26, and November 28 with 10-11 North Korean students in attendance. The students discussed various issues from freedom of expression, to social inclusion and reunification.
In October, students went on a one-day excursion to Namyangju. Participants visited Slow City Culture Center and exhibition titled Blindness. On December 26, all Leadership Club members gathered through a Zoom meeting and talked about what they have learned from participating in the program over a year. They also gave feedback on how to improve it in the future.
- Academic and Career Counseling Program
For North Korean students resettling in South Korea and preparing to enter university, NKHR is running an Academic Career Counseling Program. The Program was first launched in April 2013 with the aim to give academic advice and counsel along with career exploration. The program offers meetings with experts, college visits and group discussions on various issues. Through the program, NKHR also helps edit students’ personal statements, conduct mock interviews, prepare important paperwork, and other important aspects of their college application.
The program was held on June 27, July 11, August 19 and September 29.The students were given opportunities to test their interests and whether they are thinking of the right career path. In addition Mock interviews were held in the areas of the greatest interest: education, Social welfare, Nursing, Diplomacy, and Business Management. The students also held conversation with selected representatives of various jobs.
In addition, in October, 12 students went to Gangneung city to meet a mentor, who successfully runs his company in South Korea after escaping the North. On November 7, participating students met with a senior journalist at the Hankyoreh, a leading progressive newspaper in South Korea as a part of the career exploration series. Giving lecture, the journalist shared his insight into the Fourth Industrial Revolution and future direction of study. On November 28, students had a discussion on their roles in the future with Professor at the National Research Foundation of Korea who talked about necessary abilities in future and possible ways to be prepared in the rapidly changing society.
All Academic Career Counseling Program members were divided into two groups and had the last session meetings respectively on December 19 and 26. Concluding the year-long program and evaluating their academic performance in 2020 compared to their goals, participating students adjusted their goals and plans for 2021.
NKHR has been offering monthly scholarships to North Korean students in order to support and encourage their commitment to education. Between 11 and 13 college students and 2 high school students were receiving scholarships each month in 2020.
The Education Team at NKHR organizes a number of adjustment programs which aim to enhance educational opportunities for, and instill confidence in young North Korean resettlers. Among these initiatives is the 1:1 mentorship program, which aids students in bridging educational gaps, particularly in the areas of English, Math, and Korean composition. This year, the program has connected 21 North Korean students with a total of 33 volunteer mentors who are mostly South Korean university students. They are having weekly online education sessions for study.
- Handbook for North Korean Resettlers
Collaborating with young North Korean resettlers, NKHR published a handbook, Your 911. Written both in Korean and Chinese, the handbook provides useful and detailed information about lives in South Korea such as instructions on how to use the internet, cellphone, hospital, transportation, and etc. For young North Koreans coming from the most closed and controlled society, seemingly simple and usual tasks in South Korea like buying a book from the internet or taking the subway to meet a friend could be challenging. The handbook could be a friendly guide assisting North Korean youth to adjust to their new life in South Korean society.