After a terrifying escape from Kim Jong Un‘s oppressive regime, this North Korean family is trying to adjust to their new life in South Korea.
South Korea is vastly different from North Korea in terms of education, finances, lifestyle, technology, and culture. In South Korea, the family has experienced many firsts: their first driving lessons for the father, the first electric washing machine for the mother, and the first good school for their kids.
Poor education was one of the main reasons why the family fled North Korea. Without a proper education, how could their children hope to make a better life for themselves in North Korea?
Their children, a teenage boy and an 8-year-old girl, looked forward to their new schools. In North Korea, schools lacked electricity, books, and other essential supplies. The teachers often didn’t show up and had to be bribed into giving lessons.
This North Korean mother rushed around the family’s government-provided apartment in Seoul, trying to get everything organized in time for her kids’ first day of school.
Already, she is beginning to adjust to Seoul’s fast-paced life. In South Korea, the phrase “skirt wind” describes a mother who is busying herself with her children’s education.
However, education in South Korea isn’t cheap. It cost the family nearly a thousand dollars just to get their son ready for school (books, uniforms, a bag and shoes) and the family’s financial concerns don’t end here.
The family also owes $30,000 to the brokers who helped them escape from North Korea to China. The brokers insist on payment, which means that the father must begin making money right away.
The father, a who worked as a fisherman in North Korea, would now like to get a job as a cleaner or an electrician. Being an electrician pays more but requires training, something he doesn’t have time to do. As a night cleaner, he could start earning money immediately. The work would be dirty and difficult but, at 46-years-old, he feels it is too late to start a career from scratch.
In terms of technology, the family had much to learn.
They had to learn how to use the internet, mobile phones, how to open a bank account, and how to use a debit card. They have fallen in love with South Korea’s entertainment. Instead of state propaganda, the family can now enjoy watching endless amounts of South Korean television.
The son is enjoying movies, music, and computer games, and but also uses the internet to look at satellite images of his hometown. He misses his family and friends. The daughter loves to watch animated television but describes it in a way that a native South Korean girl wouldn’t. She uses a word for “animation” hasn’t been used in South Korea for many years. It will take time for her to pick up the current slang that comes naturally to her new South Korean peers.
The father has also experienced his fair share of culture shock.
He says that the people of South Korea are very kind and offer help freely. He is enjoying his new freedom of speech and no longer has to be worried about being jailed for complaining about politicians.
It will take time for the family to settle into their new country but despite their hardships, the family hopes that more North Koreans will make the journey to South Korea in order to live peacefully and freely.
“I hope that Kim Jong Un quits his job and North Korea and South Korea are united,” the wife said, “and that North Korea will become like South Korea and that everyone can do as they wish.”