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Education and Challenges for North Korean Defector Youth in South Korea Open Access

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Abstract of ThesisEducation and Challenges for North Korean Defector Youth in South KoreaDespite the South Korean government’s North Korean defector resettlement support system that aims to provide for a smooth transition into a new society, North Korean defectors fail to successfully adjust and thrive in their new environment. High unemployment rates and high drop out rate from school among North Korean defectors are only a few indicators that attest to social maladjustment. This thesis will look into the unique challenges North Korean defector youth face in the South Korean education system and how the South Korean government’s assistance lacks to provide the support North Korean youth need in this critical period of social transition and educational development. After establishing that existing scholarship overwhelmingly points to mental/psychological and sociocultural factors stemming from past experiences as having a significant effect on defectors’ adjustment to South Korea, this thesis will the examine the experiences and the challenges that defector youth face within the South Korean education system. By uncovering the deficiencies in South Korean resettlement policies in addressing these psychological and sociocultural factors within education and support for defector youth, this thesis will argue that despite the varying levels of traumatic experiences that affect the intellectual and social development of North Korean defector youth before and after coming to South Korea, south Korean laws and policies lack a centralized education system, long-term support, expertise and support for specialized programs show the government’s inability to address the challenges of that defector youth face adjusting to South Korean society. Data for this study comes largely from statistics from the South Korean government and organizations such as the Korean Educational Development Institute, Ministry of Unification and the North Korean Refugees Foundation, previous academic studies on the experiences of North Korean defectors, and documentation of South Korean resettlement policy and laws. Additional insight and narratives from the researcher’s informal interviews conducted with four defector students will be used to further illustrate the difficult reality defector youth face. These students attend the Jangdaehyun School, an alternative Christian boarding school for North Korean defectors located in Busan, South Korea. The principal of the school, Professor Changho Lim was also interviewed for additional insight on the need and significance of alternative education for defector youth. This research hopes to provide information and insight on an aspect of resettlement and unification to better serve the healthy social integration of North Korean defector youth in South Korea and to provide insight into the challenges and solutions for educational under potential national unification.

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