Skip to main content

Teaching and working with refugee and migrant communities in a divided and diversifying Korea – 2023

Dates May 26 - July 22, 2023
Program Focus

Assisting with educational goals and social adjustment of North Korean refugees and migrants of various ethnic and national backgrounds in South Korea. Learning about the challenges and possibilities of cross-cultural engagement across language and cultural differences.

Program Leaders
Program Themes
  • Children & Youth
  • Education
  • Human Rights
  • Migration
  • Public Policy



Information Session:

  • Tuesday, November 15, 7:30 PM – Zoom link


During their two-month engagement 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 understanding and benefits could be achieved through building lasting connections between local communities and Duke students by sharing curriculum and programmatic resources and interests.


Community Partnerships

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: May 30-June 24 (subject to change). In Jiguchon School, students will spend approximately 3-4 hours for class preparation and four classroom contact hours each day, contributing to the school’s teaching and extracurricular activities – sports, language and arts, computer skills, and so on – conducted in English.
  • Center for North and South Korean Culture and Education, a center dedicated to supporting North Korean refugee communities in South Korea (3-4 weeks)
    Activities: work with students of various ages; help with English; develop and engage in extracurricular activities. Dates: June 27-July 20 (Subject to change).


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, interests, and linguistic competence will be considered.

Pre-departure meetings: All students selected as finalists are required to attend biweekly meetings in person during the spring semester and a one-day workshop prior to departure.

Coursework: Students are encouraged to take a related course in during the semester before or after their summer engagement, and a statement of such intent is expected in the application.

Other skills: Ability to assist in teaching of English, performance, music, arts, physical education, and other skills to elementary, middle, and high school students and young adults; 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.



Housing meals, and transportation: Students will live in a guest house near a major university area or close to the service sites. Shared rooms will be available, with approximately two or three people per room. There will be electricity, internet access in common areas, and bathrooms with showers. Students will commute to the service sites by public transportation, i.e. Seoul Metro. Subway trains run very frequently and a one-way trip (with transfer) takes approximately an hour.

Local safety, security, and cultural norms: 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. If you have special needs related to health, culture, disability, or religious practices, please contact the program director(s) or the DukeEngage office to discuss whether your needs can be accommodated in this program.

For guidance on how race, religion, sexual/gender identity, ability, or other aspects of identity might impact your travels, we suggest exploring the Diversity, Identity and Global Travel section of the DukeEngage website.


Academic Connections

This program is open to all, and might be of particular interest to students studying migration and human rights issues and/or the histories and contemporary societies of Asia broadly defined and U.S.-Asia relations. Students interested in careers in public policy, government, law, human rights, social services, academia, medicine, and global health may benefit from this program. Our alumni have successfully entered many of these career paths.

Suggested courses to take before or after participating in this program include the following. Many courses are cross-listed in various departments. Consult program leaders with questions about other relevant courses.

  • Two Koreas (AMES)
  • Archiving and Visualizing Asia (AMES)
  • Interethnic Intimacies (AMES)
  • World of Korean Cinema (AMES)
  • Rethinking Asia and Middle East (AMES 195)
  • Korean Sociolinguistics (AMES 378S)
  • Human Rights and World Politics (ETHICS 129)
  • Refugees, Rights, Resettlement (ETHICS 199)
  • Family Rights/Human Rights (HISTORY 389)
  • Children, Schools and Society (PUBPOL 243)
  • Global Inequality and Research (ECON 436)
  • Korean language course at an appropriate level (beyond the FL requirement)


Potential program cancellations

DukeEngage cannot guarantee that any program will occur. Programs may be cancelled for various reasons, including COVID considerations.

Student Reflections from 2022