Helping North Korean defectors enter the 21st century

Joseph Park wants others who have escaped North Korea to buy in, literally and emotionally, to his venture. Ten dollars is all it takes to become a shareholder in the Yovel coffee shop in Seoul. It’s not about the money. It’s about the investment.

“There are a handful of coffee shops and restaurants in South Korea that employ North Koreans, but they don’t have any decision-making power . … They don’t get a chance to learn and take responsibility. No one lasts more than a year because they don’t have a stake in it,” he said. “That’s why, when I started this company, I wanted to give North Koreans power to make decisions.”

There are more than 28,000 Koreans who have escaped the North and now live in the South, and many struggle to make it in the frenetic South Korean society. When they arrive, most have never used a computer or owned a credit card. …Many struggle to hold down jobs in the capitalist South.

The South offers some job training to the North Koreans who make it. After three months in a reception center, they can choose to continue with vocational training, such as hairdressing, welding or car repair. But these classes are not popular, with most defectors eager to get out in the “real” South Korea. Only 174 have opted for such courses this year, according to the Unification Ministry.

[Washington Post]

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