216. [37-year-old undergraduate] Interview of Ms. Kim Eunkyeong by Kang Jeongeun
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  Name : HAFS Date : 2017-07-07 오후 8:14:28

Interview of Ms. Kim Eunkyeong by Kang Jeongeun

37-year-old undergraduate

After the charity concert last fall, I began thinking about how I can help North Korean defectors. I decided to investigate the difficulties in the defectors' lives and understand them. So, my friends and I visited Durihana International School and interviewed a few defectors in order to gain insight into their lives and experiences. Preparing for the interview I wondered whether North Koreans would be different in their appearances, or accent and tone of voice. I was also more than a little worried about sensitive questions that might offend them.

When my friends and I first arrived at Durihana International School. I was surprised because it looked very different from what l ha I expected about an international school. I had imagined the typical school building with dozens of classrooms facing a large field, but it was just a building with several floors, the building could have been an office building if it were not for the small plaque beside the entrance. I realized that I had stereotypes in my mind and pledged not to be biased during the interview.

I waited for the interviewee from North Korea excitedly. While I had been expecting a student of my age, my interviewee, Eunkyeong Kim was thirty seven years old. When 1 first saw her, I was a little bit surprised because she was not very different from South Koreans. She welcomed us with a bright smile, putting us at ease so we could begin the interview light-heartedly. To begin with, I asked for her consent to record our interview and to use her real name and photo. I had expected she would be a little guarded, but she was more than willing to help with our project and we gratefully proceeded with the interview.

After graduating from a middle school in North Korea, she came to South Korea in 2008, and graduated Durihana International School. Currently, she is a senior in theological school with one semester left to finish. When I asked her about theological school, she explained that it is a school for students preparing to be missionaries or members of the ministry. She also mentioned that she had never hidden the fact that she is a defector, while other students from North Korea often hide where they are from. 1 was impressed by her confidence and realized there was no reason for her to hide her background. If other defectors were unashamed and open, rather than secretive with their origins, there would be less prejudice against those from North Korea.

However, despite Eunkyeong’s positive attitude, she admitted it was still very difficult for her to adapt to a South Korean school. She said that studies and personal relations were the most difficult parts in a South Korea school. Having a weak foundation in English, she had difficulties studying Greek and Hebrew, which are required in theological school. Through the discussion, l inferred that North Korea has a considerably lower standard of English education compared to that of South Korea. Then, when I asked whether she had attended an after-school academy or gotten supplementary lessons to catch up with difficult subjects such as English, she answered that she didn't have extra English classes, and added that, since she entered the college through a special admission program, she didn't need it. I thought that if defectors had the opportunity to learn English under a better educational system, they could learn other English-based languages easier and have more educational opportunities.

In addition to academics, she mentioned personal relationships as another hardship. Because she came to South Korea in her later years, the age gap between her and the other students was too large for her to socialize with them as friends. But, although there were many obstacles in school life, she is content she is learning philosophy and psychological consultation, subjects not taught in North Korea, and finds that she has an aptitude for them. When I asked her what kind of advice she would give to other defectors who recently began their lives in South Korea, she said that she would like to emphasize the importance of adapting to South Korea quickly. She also added that the number of alternative schools for defectors should be increased to help them adapt to South Korean society.

Korean tv series - Autumn Tale

Then, I asked about the pros and cons of North and South Korea. She said that South Korea has a well-established welfare system and the best part is that freedom for everyone is guaranteed. In contrast, she mentioned that it is somewhat stressful to live in the highly competitive South Korean academic society. On the other hand, the preserved nature of North Korea-- its mountains, water, and air -is very clean. However, the autocratic government system in North Korea is difficult to live under. In the North, she had often watched popular television soap operas from South Korea, wondering what life in South Korea would be like. She was particularly struck by the soap opera called "Autumn Tale."I was surprised that she had access to South Korean culture, which was an object of her admiration. She had dreamt of life in the South through the love stories she watched on the television. I felt great sympathy for those living under the harsh regime of the North.

The school system of North Korea is not much different from that of the South. There are only four years in elementary school but six years in middle school. Middle school is mandatory as is high school. After graduating from middle school, students can go to college, but most of them choose to work for financial reasons.

Eunkyeong came to South Korea in 2008 via Thailand and China. She came to South Korea, mostly due to financial problems. After graduating from middle school, she went to China to get medicine for her sick mother. When she couldn't return to North Korea, she came instead to South Korea. When she fled, she did not have a chance to say goodbye to her family and friends, whom she misses dearly. In the event of reunification, the first thing she hopes to do is return to her hometown. After mentioning her family and her home, she fell silent for some time and appeared to be thinking of those she left behind. I could only imagine what it must be like to be separated from loved ones by such a barrier.

She also said that she wants to spread the gospel to North Koreans who do not know what religion is. "If North and South Korea were reunited, hospitals and churches could be established in North Korea. In the North, people must buy their own medicine and bring it to a clinic; therefore, most people are rarely cured of their illnesses. Even, when a patient has medication, there might not be an available hospital. In addition, practice of religion is prohibited and the internet is restricted. Churches should be established too, she added. Although I had been aware that the North Korean government suppressed their people by, I only now realize the magnitude of what they face and understand the necessity of reunification, for the sake of the North Korean people.

When I asked about Eunkyeong's opinion about reunification, she answered we should be reunited as soon as possible. Although there might be difficulties such as economic problems or cultural differences, North and South Korea must be reunited because we were still all Korean, regardless of geography. Previous to my interviews, when asked about reunification, my answer was one of uncertainty. I thought there were too many differences and hardships to overcome. However, after speaking with Eunkyeong for an hour and hearing Eunkyeong's resolute answer, I felt ashamed of myself.

Until now, I had heard about North Korea only from television or textbooks. It was a genuine experience to interview defectors from North Korea and ask them directly, questions about North Korea. Before, I had merely imagined how a dictatorship suppressed North Korean life and freedoms. It was really interesting to hear specific examples about it. North Koreans could not be cured when they were sick. They could not attend university no matter how hard they studied. Through the interview, l became appreciative of not living under a dictatorship.

Eunkyeong said that, if she won the lottery she would buy her own house and donate the rest of the money to adolescents from North Korea. Listening to her frugal and unselfish answer, I reflected on myself. I felt that I ought to be like her -satisfied with what I have.