211. Interview of Principal of Durihana International School
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  Name : HAFS Date : 2017-07-07 오후 1:04:14

Interview of Principal of Durihana International School
by Lee Seonyeong and Kim Nayun

Abused human rights, disrupted family

Through the interview with the principal of Durihana International School Kiwon Chun, we had an opportunity to get to know the problems of North Korean defectors better. Kiwon calmly answered our questions about his motivation to start this program for North Korean defectors. In 1995, he told us that he witnessed a horrifying scene in China. Many women defectors were unwillingly married to Chinese men. He saw dead people on the ground near the border. He saw young children defectors begging for food. Even though a few decades had passed since 1995, over 30,000 North Korean defectors still exist in South Korea and over 2,000,000 North Koreans have lost their lives, according to UN statistics. The North Koreans will keep crossing into the South in the future, so Kiwon humbly decided to devote his life to teaching and caring for North Korean defectors.

Among the approximately 80 students at Durihana International School are two types of students: students born in North Korea or born in China. While the government provides a resettlement fund, a home, and all educational fees until University to students born in North Korea, the students born in China are provided nothing by the government, except an identification card. In addition to having financial problems, the students born in China also suffer from an identity crisis. Since they were born and spent their youth in China, they both consider themselves as Chinese, not Korean. This identity crisis between Korean and Chinese comes when they finally move to Korea. North Korea defectors escape North Korean society that abuses their basic human rights in order to find their rights and freedom. However, while crossing the border, most suffer from the pain of a disrupted family. The deep scar occurs on young children who witnessed their mother sold to man and taken back to North Korea again.

Principal Kiwon elaborated that his goal is to teach and heal those wounded youth who were forced to be separated from their mother, to have a step father or to have to adapt to new siblings. Their lives are unfortunate because they distrust society and people. Indeed, he accepted into the school a young boy whose life had been threatened by his step father when he was only eight years old; he led the boy to successfully live his life cheerfully through Jesus’ teachings and through the fatherly love of the principal himself.

I was relieved to see them carry their tragic story calmly, adapting well to this society. After interviewing them, I felt pity for prematurely old students who had lived harsh experiences, though young in age, in the unfortunate environments in China and North Korea.

For North Korean defectors, he said that drastic development of technology and society are just a menace that they have had to overcome. Compared to the past, China has entered the digital age in which smart phones are an indispensable tool. Thus, nobody can live without a smart phone. North Korean defectors who simply wanted freedom are no longer able to lead a calm life, leaving their hopes trampled. For those defectors, the principal asked us to pay more attention to and to show affection toward them to help them adapt well to society.

Understanding the different culture

North Korean defectors have spent extremely tragic times under the socialist system of North Korea, merely sustaining their lives with low quality foods and basic commodities provided by their government. Even though we lend our hand to them in full sincerity, defectors naturally doubt our intentions of helping them. Most North Korean defectors supported themselves by deceiving and taking advantage of others. Thus, for them who have cheated others consistently in the past in order to survive, doing an act of charity is very unfamiliar to them. Also, since they are used to receiving essential commodities for maintaining life from the North Korean government, they very rarely express gratitude to people who help them. Principal Kiwon told us that he had been hurt by their untruthfulness, suspicions, and ignorance about his unselfish love.

However, Principal Kiwon said their unthankful attitudes are derived from the differences between our “cultures.” Our deeply rooted South Korean culture is woven inside us, just as North Korean defectors have deeply entrenched North Korea’s culture in their minds. Even though they are becoming accustomed to the South Korean culture and starting to understand it, their entrenched traditions lead them to continue acting the way they did in North Korea. Unlike their primary motivation to fill their empty stomachs by crossing the border, adapting to a new culture and society is a more harsh reality.

Principal Kiwon urged us, as honorable members of society, to help our North Korean defectors better adapt. He again emphasized the importance of education for South Koreans in order to make us fully understand our cultural differences in order to erase any discrimination. A student in Durihana International School had been discriminated against in the past just for the simple reason that he is from North Korea. Breaking the stereotype towards North Koreans should be the cornerstone of the cultural unity between North and South Korea.

Government policy for North Korean defectors

It is not enough to say that we ourselves have the responsibility to lead North Korean defectors since we have already settled and established ourselves in this society but Principal Kiwon also asserted the importance of revising governmental policy toward North Korean defectors. He illustrated that our policy “gives them fish rather than teaching them how to fish," by neglecting instruction in the basic skills of hunting as compared to that of the United States. The United States encourages refugees to get a job in order to become financially independent, providing them a house offered by NGO only for the first six months. However, unlike the policy of the United States, the Korea government offers a resettlement fund, a home and about $500 minimum cost of living allowance every month. This system is counter-productive for them to become independent and self-sustaining in our society.

The South Korean government offers around $3,000 resettlement fund in three separate installments to North Korean defectors. These defectors, who have never had that high sum of money, will eventually spend it all without planning properly for the future. Moreover, North Korean defectors tend not to work hard to achieve independence in a workplace where they can earn about $700 since that amount is little different from what they earn and the minimum cost of living allowance they receive from the government.

Eventually, they are unlikely to find stable employment or even though they find it; they are prone to give it up soon. The government policy of providing a resettlement fund to defectors instead of teaching them how to earn a living and how to save to become financially independent in this new society must be amended, says Principal Kiwon.

The principal endeavors tremendously to rescue North Korean defectors with all his efforts and all his care. Some of the principal’s rescued children realize their dreams abroad. One such student who has particularly stood out in his memory was one who was accepted to a university in the United States. The teacher maintains that he had always been proud to introduce that student to others.

But, even perfect students such as him could not maintain his pure intentions. He lost his humility and would arrive late to worship. And, he would often boast of his university. The principal expressed much lamentation of the student’s loss of gratitude in place of pride.

There was another case. Fifteen students who attended Durihana International School decided to transfer to regular schools the next semester. Even though they had lived at this school for two or three years under his guiding protection, they were ungrateful and didn’t express their gratitude to the principal when they left. As the principal’s only reward was a simple “Thank you,” he experienced deep sorrow when they left.

Nevertheless, he emphasized that this ingratitude is not a matter of North Koreans alone. For instance, children of South Koreans know that their parents love them, but they can do nothing more than just understand it. When they grow up, give birth to, and then raise their children, they will then "feel" their parents’ love within their hearts.

What the North Korean defectors need is time. The principal said that since they will realize the love they received in Durihana International School and feel grateful as time passes. Now he should trust them and steadily proceed with his job of rescuing them. At first, he was disappointed by their attitude. But soon he knew that his disappointment came from his mind, impatiently expecting something, and he finally tried not to expect anything in return, but to acknowledge that it takes time for them to feel grateful. Following the biblical admonition “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” he heads to a higher level as a pastor by forgetting what he is giving. It is difficult to live a steady life helping others with limitless faith. In this devotion, I realized again that he is truly a great man.

Even though Durihana International School works by the will of God, it has problem that can’t be solved with prayer alone. The school is located in Bangbae-dong, an expensive village in Seoul, costing 20 million won per month for expenses that include the dormitory and school. According to the principal, the financial problem was the heaviest burden because the school pays not only monthly rent but also provides three daily meals for 80 students. Fortunately, a few companies reached out generously to Durihana International School, providing support of six million won for rent and rice every month.

One generous company with its motto of “Make money to help the poor” sends 200kg of rice to the school monthly. Churches have also stepped in to help. Twenty churches take turns making delicious, nutritious meals for the school. Warm helping hands glean and gather for the school and, thanks to them, children in the school live in comfort. However, it is still difficult to pay fourteen million won for monthly rent.

“Then, how much does the government support?” I suddenly wondered. The answer was shocking. “Government? They do nothing.” While even non-wealthy individuals help to sustain the school, the government has done nothing to help. How unfathomable! Even a little money from the government’s standpoint would be a huge helping hand to the school. I am so sorry this situation exists.

Lastly, the principal emphasized the importance of English. He had the chance to learn English when he attended university, but he chose other languages, failing to see its future importance. In fact, English is a prominent and most crucial part in the rescue of North Korean defectors. He often goes to America on business but usually lacks sufficient time to deliver his speech because he must hire an interpreter. If he is given an hour to speak, he can only use 30 minutes in reality. In addition to lack of time, he feels burdened because he is unsure whether his speech is well received.

Interview of Principal of Durihana International School

by Lee Seonyeong and Kim Nayun

When the reunification is accomplished, we Koreans will be global leaders with South Korean techniques and North Korean resources combined. Here, the most significant leadership skill is communication. To communicate with people around the world, we must be able to speak English fluently. Therefore, it is essential for us to do what we can do now: South Koreans must develop their English skills to prepare to teach English to North Koreans when reunification occurs.