While life in Seoul sounds like heaven compared to life under a brutal dictator in Pyongyang, North Korean defectors know firsthand, life isn’t all sweet and rosy on the other side.
“When I first moved to South Korea, I had spare time, I didn’t know what to do with it” James said. We never had that in North Korea.”
“I found it difficult to identify,” he said. “In North Korea most communication is face-to-face, in South Korea it’s done over the internet.”
James is one of five students studying English in Sydney as part of a scholarship program at the University of Technology Sydney, specifically aimed at former North Koreans. He is the first to admit he doesn’t miss the day to day life in North Korea, but he does long to see friends and family he left behind.
The group explained that they not only found discrimination in the competitive South Korean world, but also faced the challenge of having to catch up on years of education. James said most students not only study during the day, but also take up extra tutorial in the evenings just to get ahead.
Enormous difficulties adjusting to their lives in the south including how to use the internet and things like using the train service or topping up a travel card. These simple life skills are all learned during a three-month stay at the Hana Foundation, a defector mentoring program.