N. Korean defectors to learn about democracy in US

June 11, 2015
North Korean defector students at a leadership program in Washington D.C. (Courtesy of Facebook/Global Giving)

North Korean defector students at a leadership program in Washington D.C. (Courtesy of Facebook/Global Giving)

By Lee Ji-hye

A Washington-based North Korean NGO is organizing a student program for North Korean defectors to participate in a U.S. leadership program next month.

Hosted by the Korean American Sharing Movement (KASM), 10 students from South Korea, including seven who have defected from the North, will take part in its Washington Leadership Program (WLP) from July 3-24, VOA Korea reported Thursday.

The defector students include those attending Sogang University, Korea University and Handong Global University.

They will participate in a three-week course in Washington and New York, visiting the headquarters of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, along with the United Nations and Voice of America’s offices.

The students also will visit the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Human Rights Watch to “learn the development of America’s democracy and a potential scenario for North Korea’s systematic change,” according to program organizers.

KASM representative Na Seung-hee said: “We plan to have the students debate with the people they meet in the States regarding how we will bring about a democratic society, listen to classes and debate with fellow students as well,” adding that students would have the opportunity to dream of change in North Korea, and what preparations must be made.

“They will get a chance to listen to not only the professionals in the area, but also various Americans from all corners to discuss in depth what is important.”

The WLP has provided many opportunities for defector students to develop as potential global leaders, especially after 2012, when it focused on developing leaders for reunification on the Korean Peninsula.

“It is important to focus on what will happen after reunification,” Na said. “People have to really think of what crucial roles they will be taking on when it happens, which is why we have to make sure we have prepared leaders that have experienced North Korea’s society and the South’s as well.”

Na said the WLP would help the students get ready for any social changes that could happen in North Korea.

Volunteers for the program also include Open Society Foundation in New York as well as a variety of Korean-Americans in the region.

“I feel very grateful to see many defector students making a difference through this program for the past three years, especially focusing on developing potential leaders to light the way towards reunification,” Na said.

“We hope this leads to a new path for other defector students to become leaders, too.”