What we do
At PSCORE, with the help of volunteers, we provide free 1:1 tutoring classes for the refugees. This classes are mostly English classes to help them integrate themselves in South Korean society and to be able to share their stories with more people around the globe. We also provide tutoring depending on their interests in other foreign languages (Chinese, French) or even sciences (mathematics, biology). To help them, we often provide study books for the students as well as some class material when needed.
Every year, thousands of refugees are escaping from one of the toughest regimes in the modern world: North Korea. For refugees fleeing hunger and persecution in North Korea, getting out of the country is only the first step to a normal life with a chance to realize their dream. For those who succeed in reaching South Korea, the journey is not over. The drastic changes between North Korea and the modern developed country that is South Korea can be overwhelming.
I could successfully enter college because PSCORE’s style of teaching fits me. When I was challenged with difficult questions, my tutor went through the whole problem solving process, step by step, with me. She gave me some advice of how to study efficiently as well. This encouraged me to study even harder.
I am learning art at Hongik University (the art school at Hongik University is ranked top in Korea). I am so busy studying at school so I am not learning anything else. At the school, there are many various fees for art materials, so there are some hardships. Last summer vacation, I wanted to make my own piece of art, but I had to work hard to earn money to buy the art materials for next semester. I worked at a kitchen and served at a barbecue restaurant, because of that, I could not draw. The money I earned, which is used for accommodation near the school and to buy art materials, drained quickly.
I am thankful that PSCORE provides free tutors to refugees who have difficulties studying. I have been studying in South Korea for four years and there have been several instances that I wanted to kill myself. It was the grades…
The report cards that follow midterm exams and final exams have disappointed me very much, and they created in me an adverse reaction to studying. (...) For 2 years I wandered from place to place, unable to adapt to school life.
As I was struggling with life, news of PSCORE’s educational support program was very pleasant and exciting to hear. Weekly meetings with my instructor Yoo Jung-mo never end with studying. Although we do study, we also talk about how the previous week went; I share about life in North Korea and ask about life in South Korea. Academics are important to me, but what I needed was a teacher with whom I can talk and who could also help with my studies.
I will study diligently. At times the stress associated with studying tempts me to kill myself, but I will resist. There are so many people who have helped me that ending my own life would be wronging them. (...) Just as I received so much help, I want to become someone who can also give help to others and stand by them in times of their need. I want to thank the PSCORE instructors for not only tutoring me, but also for helping me find a dream and a hope.
It has been a little over 5 months since I settled down in South Korea. At first I stumbled my way to the PSCORE office and “thank you” was the only English phrase I knew. Now, I am proud of my ability to hold a conversation with the blue-eyed foreign English instructors and to be able to give greetings in simple English.
PSCORE’s cultural program and English class was once unfamiliar to me, but these meetings with foreigners and fellow North Korean escapees are now events that I eagerly look forward to.
To the PSCORE staff and volunteer instructors who encouraged our heavy hearts and befriended us, I feel I owe more than an expression of gratitude. I wish to show my appreciation by studying hard and becoming fluent in English quickly.
I hope this effort of good faith will be an adequate response to their kindness.
Every spring after a long winter break, 12-year-old students go to school holding their parents’ hands in South Korea, with their hearts fluttering with expectations of new friends. And at dawn of one spring day, a 12-year-old boy named Soo-Hwan (assumed), who was living in North Korea, began his dangerous journey to South Korea.
He crossed the Amnokgang (Yalu River) with his grandparents in utter darkness, and fortunately he was able to safely arrive at South Korea. His mind was filled with anticipation of his new life, where he can use electricity, a computer, and watch TV. “I felt as if I was on a trip.“
We asked him the reason for his decision to escape. To our question, Soo-Hwan answered, “to avoid military service,” without any hesitation. In fact, in North Korea, except for the most elite students who enter colleges, men are required to serve in the military at least ten years from the age of seventeen. During the service, soldiers barely get paid and are provided with only one or two furlough. Moreover, the soldiers have to face again with life’s arduousness when discharged, without having received any proper education during their service. The reality that he had to spend his youth in such a way was very difficult for 12-year-old Soo-Hwan to understand.
However, the life that Soo-Hwan encountered in South Korea for which he risked his life was far from what he expected. Contrary to fellow students who liked to play games, Soo-Hwan preferred to play sports and hence had trouble making friends. Soo Hwan also suffered substantially from bias against defectors. We asked him what kind of prejudice he experienced. Soo-Hwan answered, “I received many personal insults straight in my face,” and nonchalantly added, “I think I got inured to those situations.” For all that, the reality was still grim. Recently, Soo-Hwan got caught in a fraud case by his part-time job’s employer, who deliberately took advantage of the fact that Soo-Hwan is a defector and did not give his proper salary. “Since we were hardly familiarized with Korean legal system… we were conned.” Due to the difficulties in adjustment, Soo-Hwan lost both his confidence and smile.
He came to PSCORE’s Wednesday English Class like this two years ago. In South Korea, considerable proficiency in English is demanded for not only high grades and employment, but also daily life. Because classes in North Korea are fairly backward in English, English becomes a significant drag on many defectors. Fortunately, Soo-Hwan began to recover his confidence with high grades by steadily participating in Wednesday English Class. “I was able to confidently speak in English in front of other students during discussion classes in school. I also felt a sense of accomplishment that I could do better than others.”
Confidence in English soon led to restoration of Soo-Hwan’s confidence and increase in his sense of accomplishment in other areas. “It was like the butterfly effect.” Soo-Hwan, who enjoyed playing sports, including Jujitsu and boxing, registered to a gym with the money that he earned by working part-time jobs. The sense of achievement that he can do what he wants to do, and confidence he gained from betterment of his English skill and sports changed Soo-Hwan. “I wasn’t confident before… now I always laugh. My personality also changed. I am happy now.” He told us that his small wish is to continue playing sports. Later, Soo-Hwan shyly added that his acquaintance actually told him about how sports can help with relationship as well.
Lastly, we asked Soo-Hwan about his dream. He instantly replied, “I think that I should donate to this type of organization and students like me, once I earn enough money. I was really grateful when I received help. I sincerely want to pay back.”
While listening to his story, we were thankful and felt great that PSCORE was able to help any bit defectors and their community’s development.
A North Korean defector student went from being the victim of school bullying to becoming the classroom president.
This particular student attended PSCORE’s one-on-one tutoring and Wednesday classes, but was not focused on her schoolwork and withdrew from others because of the bullying and stress she was experiencing in school. PSCORE arranged for one of its volunteer art therapists to provide her with free weekly therapy sessions, and after one year of completing therapy, she studied harder, socialized with others in the program and at school, and achieved better grades and test scores.
One of our student’s biggest dreams was to become a florist.
She started attending the English classes every Wednesday even though she has a lot for work she never missed one class, after saving some money and she send an application to study abroad in the united kingdom She got accepted and now she is studying in the united kingdom and pursuing her dream.