North Korean refugees struggle in South Korean schools

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With the increase in North Korean defectors reaching the South, the number of North Korean refugees in elementary and junior high schools in Seoul nearly doubled from 1992 to 2012. In fact, more than half of North Korean refugees are “school-aged.”

According to 2004 Unification Ministry data, it takes roughly three years for North Korean refugees to get to South Korea after leaving North Korea. Their experiences during this period can have a profound effect on the psychological and emotional state of North Korean children and adolescents.

Migrating from North Korea is hard: there isn’t a wide range understanding and tolerance about North Koreans in South Korean society. Many defectors feel that they will be discriminated against because they came from North Korea, and many hide their true background. However, 81.8% polled were outed as defectors through a teacher’s introduction as soon as they entered school, with only 18.2% of the respondents saying they voluntarily revealed their background.

Stress in hiding one’s identity can act as a psychological block in making friends, with anxiety that his or her true identity will be revealed. As a result, it can be very difficult for North Korean teens to form relationships with peers in South Korea. Since they have difficulty studying and making friends in school, many teenage North Korean refugees drop out of school.

According to data from the Ministry of Education, the defector enrollment rate for middle school is 57.9%, while the enrollment rate for high school is only 10.9%. (For South Koreans, high school enrollment rate is 98%, and the university admission rate is close to 80%.)

Given that South Korea is such a scholastically centered society, the low educational status of North Korean defectors will become a big obstacle to their future social life. Read more

This entry was posted in by Grant Montgomery.

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