After a week of teaching my North Korean students, I realized that it was difficult to get to know them beyond certain point. As the age of students gets higher, it seemed more difficult for them to open up. Some of them did not receive education back in North Korea and was reluctant to discuss further about their lives in North Korea. Unlike my expectation that it would be easier to become close to my students than in Jiguchon, my attempts were futile. Nevertheless, they were open to telling me about their lives in South Korea, and I kept asking more questions through free conversation sessions.
While talking about their dreams and aspirations, I learned that all the female students wanted to go to school to get access to high-level education whereas most of the male students wanted to go abroad to work. Although I wasn’t able to ask about the specifics, such difference likely stems from the ways they were treated back in North Korea and in other countries during their defecting process.
Another interesting fact that I learned about the system was that South Korean government only subsidizes North Korean defectors to attend college until they turn 35. However, as most Korean colleges require applicants to be fluent in English, some of them were discouraged to take the challenge and instead, turned their goals to professional schools. In case of Soobin and Minkyung, they both originally wanted to go to business school, but gave up as business schools require high scores on TOEFL and TOEIC. Despite such turndown, they were still enthusiastic to aim for professional schools and learn English, and I was glad that I could be part of their joy.
For our fianl project, we (Brock, Brandon, Peining, and I) decided to make a scrap book where we put photos of people in Seoul who we could interview. For the past few weeks, we were not able to interact with a lot of South Koreans, and we wanted to hear South Korean’s opinion on the current dynamics with North Korea. Knowing the history of South Korean government’s attempt to approach the North Korean, I do not expect the current situation to go beyond peaceful existence between the two countries. However, since I’m not the representative example, I wanted the group to meet more South Koreans who could give a glimpse of what the population think of this historic moment. Thus, for the upcoming week, I am planning to meet with more South Koreans who could share their perspectives regarding the division and peace within the Korean peninsula.