Young N.Korean Defectors Face Bullying at School

      January 12, 2012 07:56

      About 1,500 young North Korean defectors attended primary and secondary schools in South Korea, and they often have trouble adapting to a new school life due to discrimination and cultural differences.

      Some 256 North Korean students dropped out of school over the last four years, accounting for 7 percent of all North Korean schoolchildren here. That was seven times the overall dropout rate of 1 percent. Among the dropouts, 73 or 28 percent left school because they failed to adapt. It is estimated that there are many more such students who find it difficult to keep up with their schoolwork or are ridiculed or bullied by their classmates.

      Young North Korean defectors often feel left out because they do not share the same cultural background and assumptions as their classmates. "It's hard for me to not just change my North Korean accent but to understand some South Korean abbreviations or the many foreign words other children are using naturally," a middle-school student said. "They were nice to me at first, but they found it more and more difficult to communicate with me because I grew up in a different environment."

      Some said they get stressed if their friends tease them when the behavior of the North Korean regime makes headlines. Another middle-school student said she was embarrassed when fellow students asked her if she cried when North Korean leader Kim Jong-il died late last year.

      The problem is that there are no proper counselors for children to turn to when they are ostracized or bullied. South Korean students normally seek their parents' help, but most North Korean defectors cannot afford to help their children because they live in straitened circumstances and have a hard time adapting themselves. The situation is all the harder for young North Koreans who arrived in South Korea alone because they have no one to turn to.

      Yoon Sang-suk at Rainbow Youth Center, a charity that helps children of multicultural families and young North Korean defectors to adapt to a new life in South Korea, said, "The issue can't be solved at an individual level but it has to be tackled by society as a whole."

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