Hogwarts for Defectors: Turning North Koreans into South Koreans

The South Korean government is certainly trying to make the integration of North Korean defectors work, but mixed messages are not helping mutual understanding.
December 10th, 2012

Seven North Korean defectors sit shyly through a ceremony celebrating the end of their three-week life-skills course at a regional resettlement centre. Traditional songs from the northern provinces are sung, two small defector boys giggle their way through a north Korean lullaby and speeches are made on the challenges ahead. Of the seven defectors, only

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About the Author

Sarah A. Son

Sarah Son is an NK NEWS columnist and a PhD candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) where she specialises in inter-Korean affairs.

Join the discussion

  • Markus

    Really nice article, Sarah. I feel you have put some real effort into capturing the nuances of a difficult settlement process at both a structural and practiced level. Hope to read more from you in the future.

  • http://www.facebook.com/judy7493 Kyung-Joon Song

    well. I’m not good at English So I can’t type what I think,

    mm.. ROK Government provides a a rental house per every North Korea Defectors’ family.

    and now in ROK, most people has a problem at un-employment, high-cost and so on as like North Korea Defectors.

    • Stacy L

      Your English is not bad! There are a few minor grammatical errors, but otherwise, I think that you conveyed your point well.

      While I cannot understand this issue from a cultural perspective, I think that the subtle class distinctions are something everyone deals with. I remember reading that North Korean language dialects are a bit obvious to South Koreans, especially since there are quite a few English loan words in the southern dialect. Preconceived notions about the intelligence and/or efficacy of a different segment of society can filter through with something as small as the pronunciation of the same word.

      I guess what I am getting at is simple: maybe South and North Koreans need to sit down in Seoul and overcome the preconceptions.

  • Robert S. Boynton

    Very perceptive, well-reported piece.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bjorn.schwarzenbach Bjorn Schwarzenbach

    Great article! Thanks for the new information. One quick question: with only 4% of NK defectors owning homes, what is the percentage of South Koreans owning homes? Isn’t it relatively also low? Thanks again!