North Korean students who have defected to South Korea are to be sent on a study abroad programme to Australia to improve their English, amid wider concerns that defectors fail to succeed in education after escaping from the Pyongyang regime.
The South Korean Ministry of Unification, along with the Australian government and the University of Technology Sydney, have agreed to send five students abroad per year, reported The Korea Times.
According to the South Korean government, defectors often lacked enough English to cope with academic work at universities in the country, because opportunities to learn the language in North Korea were so limited.
The ministry said in a press release: “We hope our program will help participants to interact with international students while bolstering their English-language abilities.”
The North Korean students will study in Australia for 30 weeks.
According to a briefing by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a South Korean thinktank, educational prospects for defectors are poor. They are often underweight and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder on their arrival in the country, and this helps lead to high school dropout rates and poor employment prospects in South Korea.
“Young North Korean students suffer from low self-esteem vis-à-vis their South Korean peers because almost all North Korean refugees are placed in lower grades with students who are younger than them, yet they find it difficult to catch up academically with their younger peers,” it reports.
Almost half of North Korean higher education students drop out of their courses and have trouble socialising with their South Korean coursemates, it warns.