212. [A better world] Interview of Lee Jiwon and Ms. Park Hajin by Kim Nayun
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  Name : HAFS Date : 2017-07-07 오후 1:59:04

Interview of Lee Jiwon and Ms. Park Hajin by Kim Nayun

It was not just out of curiosity that I became interested in the North Korean defectors. I listened to their stories carefully. I had been performing at club charity concerts for North Korean defectors in high hook All 1 had learned so far bout their stories was from books and articles. Vet, I wanted to meet them personally, to listen to their life stories, and to share their troubles and hardships. I believe that opening my mind and listening to their stories would be a first step toward a world where we dream and create together.

The first meeting

The first North Korean defector I met was thirteen year old Lee Jiwon; she had a small frame and bright eyes and did not look any different from us at all. Presently, she lives with her friends at Durihana International School dormitory. She introduced herself in a shy voice, saying that he woke up late because it was vacation. At this moment my prejudice about North Korean defectors melted. Until that moment I had envisioned them as being stiff, awkward, and hard to approach, based on TV news images. I continued, thinking that she was just another Korean -born of a South Korean father and a North Korean mother. But I then heard the wounds of her heart one at a time.

Her mother was treated in a hospital for a long time because she became weak during the difficult journey from North Korea through China into South Korea. She then married in South Korea and gave birth to Jiwon and her now 8-year-old brother. She entrusted Jiwon to Durihana International School because, as a divorcee, it was very difficult for her to raise a child and work at the same time. As a single mother having a hard time after her divorce, she moved to Canada when Jiwon was 6 years old. She spent four years under the protection of a support group; his Jiwon remembered as one of her happiest tin.es. However, this unstable life with a lot of fluctuations appeared to make thirteen year old Jiwon a precocious child, ''he seemed more mature than I, and knew how to change anxiety into a positive attitude.

She had to be more careful in a regular South Korean high school than in Canada. She couldn't reveal that she was a North Korean defector's child; she felt distant each time she visited her friends' homes because they looked so happy. She never let her schoolmates or teachers know that her mm her was a North Korean defector. She worried that her friends would ostracize her, look at her strangely, and perhaps keep their distance from her, if they knew. She had heard stories of other North Korean defectors who had been hurt by schoolmates prior to transferring to Durihana International School. Why would a young girl like Jiwon, not different from us, bear such a heavy burden in her heart? Why would he perceive an invisible wall around her? I could not help but feel sorry for her. It made me think that the thick wall that divides the North and South was deeply embedded also in our minds.

She suddenly changed the topic and told me about her dream of becoming a chef. Perhaps she noticed my worried face. She smiled and told me that she serves as an English interpreter whenever foreign guests visit the school. I asked her about her hopes. She hoped that her mother's health returns so that the three members of her family, including her brother, could spend more time at home together. She is willing to cook for and take care of her brother if that hope were realized. Her calm voice broke my heart deeply. The second generation of No h Korean defectors, as well as the first, experiences many difficulties in settling and living in Korean society. Shouldn’t we make every effort to rid our prejudices? Shouldn't we understand and embrace them so that no young people go astray, lose their dreams, and become victims of social cynicism and invisible discrimination?

The Second Meeting

I met Ms. Park Hajin with a somewhat heavy heart because of the resonance from the first meeting with Jiwon. Ms. Paik's bright and positive energy contrasted with her shy tone of voice. She is a 36 year old woman ?ho teaches the Chinese language at Durihana International School. It has been 10 years since she arrived in Korea. She smiled brightly and announced that he has a beautiful daughter who just turned one. She sadly told me her stories about the rough journey she had to endure. I hen she recovered her bright smile.

She lost her parents and became an orphan at a young age. Her three siblings remained and only the youngest was sent to an orphanage. Her older brother left home and became homeless, wandering around alone for a long time. The hardest thing she endured was the cold and hunger everyday; this was unbeatable. She saw people who had starved to death on the street then he woke up in the morning. Absolutely tired of hunger, she left for China at the age of 19 with an acquaintance. She spent eight years in China.

Unlike the majority of North Koreans, who have hail to endure hunger every day, North Korean leaders and managerial officers live a stable life, but such privilege is limited to a very few people. The gap between the rich and the poor is so large that the majority of North Koreans are increasingly complaining; there are also an increasing number of people watching South Korean dramas and news in secret due to the Internet and multimedia. As a result, a growing number of North Koreans contemplate escaping North Korea.

The most difficult moment for her was when she was caught by North Korean soldiers shortly after she arrived in China. They sent her back to North Korea. She had to go through unspeakably harsh ordeals until she escaped again. Her story seemed as if the scenes of a dramatic movie; I was in awe of Ms. Park, who h id endured such harsh experiences at my same age. Idle desperate struggles and endless challenges she faced while trying to escape such a miserable situation gave her the bright smile that she has today.

I remembered the little things that I routinely complained about. I thought how trivial hey were. 'Die extravagant issues that I deemed important?like exams, college, and career were miniscule compared to fundamental human rights and the issues of life and death. The ordeals Ms. Park had been through arc very different from what ordinary people experience. Thus, it is very hard for us to truly empathize with them. It has been 10 years since she came to South Korea; her friendship with a pastor during her eight years in China helped bring her here. During the period in Korea, she attended a foreign language college and earned a degree in Chinese. She also studied theology and continued to pioneer her future. This inspired much respect in me for Ms. Park.

When North Korean defectors arrive in South Korea, they are examined for a month and, for three months, receive general instruction about life in South Korea at Hanawon (Refugee Resettlement Center); they also get resettlement funds. She expressed her aspiration to help young North Korean defectors continue their studies and become honorable members of society. She encourages them to never give up because they can get financial assistance to help them succeed. Ms. Park said that, although life in China after escaping North Korea was very hard, she never regretted leaving North Korea. She was grateful for life's simple blessings like having a warm place to sleep and food to eat. She has lived with gratitude since she acquired religious faith.

She was especially eager to help the children of North Korean defectors born in China. She tries to help them by teaching Chinese at Durihana International School. She had observed that they had language barriers which had caused difficulties in school. Moreover, she pointed out that the hardest part of adapting to social life in Korea was dealing with South Korean's prejudicial view to North Korean defectors. Once she pretended to be a Korean Chinese. If she had revealed that she was a North Korean defector through her words or accent, she would have been at a disadvantage in interviews, slighted, or even discriminated against after being employed. She sighed that, when North Korean defectors mistakes or wrongs are reported in the press, they experience prejudice without exception.

Perhaps what Ms. Park would truly like to teach to young North Korean defectors, while guiding and encouraging them, is the confidence and courage to stand up to South Korean society, as he has done. She hopes that the social inequalities do not discourage or frustrate them; .he wants to encourage them to persistently pursue their dreams. She wants the sufferings of her family and others in North Korea to end. She dreams about a reunified Korea when these adolescents become adults. "My life has been tough, but 1 would like my daughter’s world to be a better one," said she, smiling once again.

A better world

What would the better world that she wants to create for her daughter be like? We all will have to answer this question. More than 30,000 North Korean defectors crossed through life and death traumas to come to South Korea. We should open our minds and break down the barriers of prejudice so that they can heal their wounds and realize their own dreams. This will not only help them, but also help to create a better world for ail of us. This is our obligation. Today on TV we see public service announcements, sharing that North Korean defectors are Koreans, the same as us. Ironically, this will define them socially as being different from us. The reason why it is so hard to acknowledge and accept differences may be related to our ignorance. I believe that once we get to know and understand them, not their differences, but the diversities will naturally harmonize within our society.

During the interviews, The First Meetings and The Second Meetings I was able to feel the intimacy of a neighbor or a cousin and empathize with them a little bit more. North Korean defectors are not mere objects of curiosity or pity, but neighbors and friends with whom we should live together. I will continue my third and fourth interviews to break down the walls in our minds and to understand them better and to attempt to make a better world in which no public service announcements are needed.