Sunday, June 24, 2007

From a Lead Role in a Cage to Freedom and Anomie

“From a Lead Role in a Cage to Freedom and Anomie”

I think I mentioned couple of classes ago about the North Korean defectors wanting to go back to North Korea because they were having a hard time adjusting to the new life in South Korea. I was actually quite surprised when I heard this; however, I have to say that life in South Korea is quite hard for many defectors from North Korea, not just because of the differences that have grown between the North and South over the past 60 years but honestly even as South Korean I know the South Korean people and society as a whole really doesn’t have much room for forgiveness when it comes to things that are “foreign” or “different”. Perhaps this might be because of being such a homogeneous country or whatnot; however, unless you are totally different on the outlooks – such as looking like an Anglo-American – there is no “excuse” for not knowing what everybody else’ knows or not understanding something when everybody else’ understands. I guess the North Korean defector, Lee Chan probably felt that way when he came to South Korea, because he is Korean after all – one cannot differentiate him, by the way he looks, from other Koreans; he was probably expected to know it and understand it when he really couldn’t.

Here is the link to article, “From a Lead Role in a Cage to Freedom and Anomie”, I recommend it for anyone who might be interested in stories about defectors


mweimer said...

Wow, great article. I never realized how tough it would be for a North Korean in South Korea, but its so true. They would have to re-learn everything that had been taught to them. It almost seems to me the same situation as people who have been in prison for most of their lives, and then have an extremely hard time adjusting once they are free. It's sad really, because there is so much freedom and opportunity, but alienation prevents some defectors from fully experiencing what could be good in life.

Min said...

I guess the sadest part of this is that, it applies to "most" of defectors not just for few..

I acutally wondered that if people had defected earlier, if there were relatives in South Korea, whether this might had helped but then it's been 60 years and likely chance for any direct-family member actually being alive is very small.

The article too reminded me the movie "The Shawshank Redemption", when the oldest man who had lived in prison for past 25 years - he committed suicide soon after he was released because he couldn't cope with "outside world". I just hope that there will be a better system that help with defectors who has to face with the world that they are not familiar with.

Jolan said...

I'd come across this article while doing research on my last short essay. It was very pertinent to what Min brought up in class a few days earlier. The funniest, and the saddest part for me, was when the article discussed Mr. Lee's time at Hanawon (which itself sounds isolated and lonely):

"Mr. Lee said that he had already gleaned the truth [about the Korean War] from South Korean films and television programs increasingly smuggled in from China. Hanawon also offered computer classes.

"'I just focused on getting my driver's license,' he said."