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Teaching and working with refugee and migrant youth

Dates May 30 - July 27
Program Focus

Assisting with educational goals and social adjustment of young North Korean refugees and migrant children of various ethnic and national backgrounds in South Korea.

Program Leaders
Service Themes
  • Children & Youth Services
  • Education & Literacy
  • Immigration & Refugees
  • No Foreign Language Requirement

DukeEngage-Korea Overview

During their two months in South Korea, students will work in educational facilities for North Korean and other migrant/refugee communities, focusing on issues such as education, adjustment, and other well-being concerns of the community members. This program engages with both the challenges and opportunities arising from shifting demographics and the changing fabric of South Korean society with refugees from North Korea and economic migrants from Russia, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and elsewhere. It focuses on engaging the everyday realities of this changing social dynamic, recognizing and apprehending the complexity of the situation and building friendships and working towards mutual transformation of both Duke students and community members.

The program was established from the program directors’ community networks in South Korea over decades of living and working in the country. The program was created with the recognition that mutual benefits could be achieved through building connections between the local community and Duke students by sharing curriculum and programmatic resources and interests.


Goals for Students:


  • Improve interpersonal skills crucial for success in professional and personal spheres
  • Cultivate intercultural sensibility and perspectives for increasingly diverse worlds
  • Direct energy and enthusiasm to supporting a community partner’s vision and mission
  • Develop civic responsibility and an ethic of service through active community involvement


  • Be attentive to local and global community issues and their interrelatedness
  • Be aware of different perspectives on international issues
  • Recognize and understand the different cultures and histories of people in other countries
  • Be mindful of the implications of their actions beyond the local community


Partnership Opportunities

Students will devote most of their time to serving as a group in two main sites, both located in the capital city of Seoul:

  • Jiguchon School: a school for immigrant children (3-4 weeks)
    Activities: work with elementary and middle school students; support classes in English; create and engage in extracurricular activities. Dates: June 9-July 3, 2020.
    In Jiguchon School, students will spend approximately three to four hours for class preparation and four contact hours in the classroom each day, contributing to English language teaching and other extracurricular activities – sports, art, computer skills, and so on – conducted in English.
  • Wooridul School: a school for North Korean refugee youths and adults (3-4 weeks)
    Activities: work with students of various ages; help with English; create and engage in extracurricular activities. Dates: July 6-17, 2020.
    In Wooridul School, students regularly meet and talk with refugee students and assist with their English language learning for reading and writing. They will also design individual projects for enhancing interaction and communication with the refugee students, whose ages, educational experiences, and needs vary widely.


Program Requirements

Language: While fluency or proficiency in a second language is NOT required for all students, we highly encourage students with competence in Korean and/or Chinese to apply. Students from diverse backgrounds and linguistic competence will be considered.

Coursework: All students selected as finalists are required to take a related course either the semester before or after the summer of engagement.

Other Skills: Ability to assist in teaching of English, performance, music, arts, and physical education to elementary, middle, and high school students; basic camera operation, blogging, and photo editing/layout.

Personal Qualities: Enthusiasm, empathy, and open-mindedness toward understanding new communities, cultural and social inequalities and differences.


Curricular Connections

While all students are welcome to apply, this program may be of particular interest to students studying migration and human rights issues and/or the histories and contemporary societies of Asia broadly defined. Students interested in careers in public policy, government, law, human rights, social services, academia, medicine, and global health may benefit from this program.

Students might explore the following courses either before or after participating in this program:

  • Two Koreas (AMES 473)
  • Techno Orientalism (AMES 438S)
  • World of Korean Cinema (AMES 471)
  • Approaches and Practices in Second Language Pedagogy (AMES/LING/EDUC 518s)
  • Bilingualism: Psycholinguistic and Sociolinguistic Perspectives (AMES 308S)
  • Korean Sociolinguistics (AMES 378S)
  • Interethnic Intimacies (AMES 415S)
  • Korean Literature in Translation (AMES 172S)
  • Human Rights and Legal Redress: Seeking Justice through Human Rights (ETHICS 195S)
  • Culture and Money (Culanth 423)
  • Migrant China (Culanth 241)

Program Details

Description of the Community: The partner schools are in two different neighborhoods within the metropolitan city of Seoul. These locations are all safe and convenient for travel. Summers tend to be warm to hot (average 85-98 degrees Fahrenheit), with high humidity. Students will experience both the comforts and inconveniences of metropolitan city living.


Housing and Meals: Students will live in a guest house near a major university area and public transportation. Shared rooms will be available, with approximately two or three people per room. There will be electricity, internet access in common areas, bathrooms with showers, and a small kitchen. Laundry facilities will be available either on-site or nearby.

For most of the program, students will purchase food from local restaurants or purchase groceries and prepare meals in communal kitchens. Students might want to join school lunches at the first service site. If you are vegetarian, you might run into some difficulty with food choices, since meals are often pre-prepared for all residents on campus and purely vegetarian foods are rare.


Local Safety, Security, and Cultural Norms: If you have special needs related to health, cultural, or religious practices, please contact the DukeEngage office,, to discuss whether or not your needs can be reasonably accommodated in this program.

For information related to how your religion, race, sexual/gender identity, ability or other aspects of your identity might impact your travels, we recommend starting with the Diversity, Identity and Global Travel section of the DukeEngage website.

We encourage students who have questions or concerns about health or safety in international programs to check Duke’s International SOS (ISOS) portal for relevant information.


Enrichment and Reflection: During the first week of the program, students will participate in a week-long seminar hosted by South Korea’s Ministry of Unification at the Institute for Unification Education campus. The Institute is within the city of Seoul, but nestled in a mountain range, with a quiet ambiance. Students will learn about and discuss topics ranging from daily life in North Korea to unification policies. All sessions will be conducted in English and Duke students will be interacting with other college students from around the world. Field trips to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the border area between North Korea and South Korea, and other areas rarely accessible to the public, will be arranged.

Two or three evenings per week, and most Saturdays, will be dedicated to reflection sessions or preparation for teaching and other school activities. In weekly reflection sessions students will discuss challenges faced during the experience as well as Korean history, politics, and educational systems. Group and personal blogging on a regular basis will be a required part of the engagement.


More Information

2019 group blog:
Jiguchon School:
Jiguchon 5th-6th graders:


  • Bruce Cumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History
  • Michael Robinson, Korea’s Twentieth-Century Odyssey
  • Hyeonik Kwon, The Other Cold War
  • Charles Armstrong, The Koreas
  • Sandra Faye, Marching through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea
  • Choo, Hae Yeon, Decentering Citizenship: Gender, Labor, and Migrant Rights in South Korea
  • Neary, Ian, Human rights in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan
  • Randall Williams, The Divided World: Human Rights and Its Violence
  • Julietta Hua, Trafficking Women’s Human Rights
  • Kofman, Eleonore, Gendered Migrations and Global Social Reproduction
  • Sonia Ryang, Reading North Korea: An Ethnological Inquiry

Films (available at Lilly Library):

  • The Journals of Musan (Pak Chŏng‐bŏm 2010)
  • Dooman River (Zhang Lu, 2011)
  • Joint Security Area JSA (Pak Ch’an‐uk 2000)
  • Secret Reunion (Chang Hun 2010)
  • Bandubi (Shin Dong-il, 2009)
  • Hello Orchestra (Chul-ha Lee, 2014)
  • A Little Pond (Sang-Woo Lee, 2009)
  • My Little Hero (Sung-Hun Kim, 2013)