The 26th Hangyoreh Winter School for North Korean Youth
By Joo Ri Choi, Program Officer, Education Team
From January 5 to 21, 2015, NKHR—in conjunction with Community Chest of Korea and Korea Hana Foundation—held the 26th session of Hangyoreh Winter School for North Korean Youth at the Institute for Unification Education. The school was attended by a total of 25 students: 13 North Korean defectors and 12 students born outside of Korea to North Korean parents—in China, for example. The students were taught and mentored by a group of 8 volunteers.
Many of the students this year did not know the Korean language well, and among the 13 students from North Korea, a third had been settled in South Korea for only 4 months or less. The Hangyoreh School provided classes in math, English and Korean languages, and democratic citizenship. Lessons were divided into morning and night sessions, with free study hours for students to revise and do their homework. The students also participated in a number of extra-curricular activities.
Realizing that many of the students struggled with higher levels of education because they lacked the foundational skills and concepts, we planned our lessons to provide them with a strong knowledge of basic concepts. For example, we taught simple equations and linear functions so that students could develop strong mathematical foundations. English lessons focused on strengthening the students’ grammar and vocabularies.
We provided two separate classes for the Korean language and democratic citizenship lessons to fit the needs of our different students: the 13 North Korean defectors and the 12 students born outside of Korea to North Korean parents. The former group focused on learning to express their opinions with confidence and clarity, and the latter group focused on learning the various aspects of the South Korean culture.
Besides daily lessons, the students at Hangyoreh Winter School also engaged in fun extra-curricular activities such as handicrafts, dodge ball, and obstacle courses. The students and volunteers even took a short trip to Ga-pyung and Nami Island on the last weekend of the Winter School. Through these activities and trips, the students and volunteers were able to get to know each other better.
The theme of the 26th session was to develop “good habits.” Although three weeks was not a long time, we believe our lessons encouraged the students to develop good long-term habits of self-motivation and study. Initially, students complained about the harsh schedules and demanding rules, but they eventually began to appreciate our efforts and the reasons behind the rules. By the end, we saw improvements in their attitude and their initiative to learn and connect with their peers.
Below are letters we received from Hangyoreh students this year:
Hello! Thank you for teaching us. I appreciate your hard work. You almost stayed up all night, led the morning exercise session, and taught us well. Now I don’t want to leave you because I got so intimate with you teachers. I learned a lot through Hangyoreh School. In the future, I want to be a person who can give courage to others like you did to us. Happy new year and many blessings!
When you asked me to make a presentation in front of people, I didn’t have confidence and I was afraid. However, after doing it once, I got a confidence that I could do better next time. Now I know why you wanted me to try first. I promise you not to say “no” before I take any steps. I will face many things in Korea with confidence so that I can overcome difficulties. Thank you.