Living for Unity | North Korean Youth in a South Korean World
At the end of WWII, the Korean peninsula was divided in half. Subsequently, the Southern peninsula known today as South has become a powerful player in the world's economy. In 50 short years, South Korea rose up from destruction and poverty to having 13TH HIGHEST GDP. However, there neighbor, North Korea lags well behind with their struggling economy, deficient infrastructures, and disregard of human rights. Known as the Hermit Kingdom, citizens in North Korea are unaware of the happenings in the outside world. In fact, citizens are told that North Korea's economy is only second to America However that does not stop the many starving and impoverished from trying to escape North Korea.
South Korea offers full citizenship to Northern Koreans who reach South Korea after going through some training. After the long, arduous journey to South Korea, many Northern Koreans still struggle with adjusting to South Korea. While South Korea with its rapid progress struggles to fully address struggles of North Korean citizens. South Korean activists of North Korean Human Rights often cite the indifference that many South Koreans especially the younger generations show. To understand the matter better, I followed the Grassroots organization Justice for North Korea. Justice for North Korea is an all-volunteer, non-partisan, and grassroots organization trying to address the human rights crisis of North Korea. They were founded and are led by a South Korean pastor whose feels call to help the North Korean people. The JFNK offered human rights workshop to expats living in South Korean and Korean citizens so that may understand the problems that Northern Koreans face. They also do street campaigns during the weekends. During the street campaign, volunteers pass out flyers depicting the issues faced by North Koreans to passerby of highly trafficked area of Seoul. Most volunteers are expats which helps draw the attention of South Koreans to the issue. There are many aspects and approaches that South Korean activists and members of the expatriate to help mediate the issue. I also followed North Korean college students struggling to adjust to world economy after coming from a place with dire poverty and lack of proper education.
Kim (24) and her brother and mother left Hamyoungnam-do, North Korea for a better future. After a long journey, Kim and her family arrived in South Korea, early 2007. Now a full-time university student, Kim works hard in hopes to one day to be a language teacher. Life has not been easy for Kim and her family especially with her father still in North Korea. Deeming too old, he refused to take the long journey to South Korea which mostly consists of long days of walking. Speaking to some North Koreans and hearing from the activists, Kim's story is very common among defectors. Many of the younger North Koreans find it difficult to adjust to the culture and educational system of South Korea. Kim along with many other North Korean students study long hours and seek extra tutoring because of the lack of quality education that they received in North Korea. They know that they cannot proposer in South Korea without proper education. As a result, many young adults work hard to get into and complete their college education. I hope for this to be an ongoing project because of the many layers to the story.
Many north Korean defectors to the south fear retribution if their identities and movements become "public record," they choose to remain anonymous.? Therefore, coverage of this important story has been to-date, slow and incremental.?
Photo documentary by TCI Emerging Photographer Kasandra Antoine (Hits: 116455)
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