NKHR staff and volunteers in front of Hanawon
Hanawon, the facility affiliated with the South Korean Ministry of Unification is where North Korean defectors receive 12-week training for social adaptation and prepare for settlement by learning various skills to be able to function well in the South Korean society. They also receive their South Korean National Identity number, registration of family relations, make housing arrangements and more. NKHR’s Team of staff and volunteers has been visiting Hanawon every Saturday since 1999, meeting with young North Korean students and providing classes to improve their English and Mathematics skills, in addition to organizing sports, science and arts activities. NKHR’s Hanawon Program targets separately two age groups: elementary school children and middle and high school children. For security purposes, this government facility does not allow for taking photos inside or of the beneficiaries.
Many of North Korean children and youth spend several years without proper schooling before their arrival in South Korea. They are only able to continue their proper education once they arrive in Hanawon. NKHR plays the role of facilitator for the youth to follow up with their school works and stimulate their interest in learning by providing supplementary gamified studying hours. The program is divided to morning classes and we prepare scientific experiments or games to play in the afternoon.
NKHR’s staffs and volunteers leave Seoul every Saturday at 7:30 a.m. to visit Hanawon. It takes approximately two hours to reach Hanawon facility. Despite early morning hours, heavy luggage with materials and tiring journey, the expectation of the smiles and twinkling eyes of the young North Korean students waiting for us in Hanawon makes us forget about these difficulties. In fact, many of the students grow very attached to volunteers and staff and some of them continue to contact us or take part in other educational programs of NKHR after leaving Hanawon facility.
Min-su, one of the students whom we are still engaging after he left Hanawon, said that Saturday was most exciting day of the week. Together with other students, he would sit on hallways and wait for us guessing what activity they would do on that day. It was time for them not only to study English and Mathematics, but also to play educational games and interact with South Korean staff and volunteers as their first introduction to the South Korean society. Min-su also said that observing us, the desire grew in him to become a volunteer and stand in front of young students in Hanawon once he enters a university.
Hanawon School also organizes graduation ceremony for North Korean youth before their discharge from the facility. NKHR awards Exemplary Award with small gifts at every graduation to one student who not only diligently and actively participated in the program, but also showed exemplary caring attitude toward other students.
The generous support of our Global Giving donors allows us to buy educational materials and provides for the public transportation costs of the NKHR's Team visiting Hanawon. From the beginning of this year, 130 North Korean children and 250 youth benefited from NKHR’s program in Hanawon. We provide additional assistance and other programs to those who continue to stay engaged with NKHR upon their resettlement in South Korean society.