New lan­guage cre­ates new am­bi­tions

JoongAng Daily - - Front Page - FROM PAGE 1. [email protected]

she won­dered what kind of world ex­isted beyond the bor­der. After leav­ing North Korea in 2007 at the age of 19, she stayed in China and then came to South Korea in 2008.

After fin­ish­ing high school in South Korea, Serena started to work at the de­mil­i­ta­rized zone. That’s when she re­al­ized the need to study English. She was meet­ing for­eign­ers reg­u­larly who asked about North Korea.

“I made up my mind to study English to in­ter­act with the for­eign­ers who showed in­ter­est in me,” she says, “and in frus­tra­tion over peo­ple in the South who were rather cold be­cause I was from North Korea.”

While in Eng­land, Serena kept won­der­ing why th­ese for­eign­ers liv­ing so far away, even Bri­tish gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, seemed to care about North Korea.

“Kore­ans ac­tu­ally don’t care much about ei­ther uni­fi­ca­tion or hu­man rights in the North, which was my im­pres­sion in the South,” she says. “But they [the for­eign­ers] did.”

Lee Jeong-hyeok, another EFF stu­dent sent to Eng­land this sum­mer, fled the North with his fam­ily in 2003 when he was 13. He said his fam­ily con­cluded that no hope was left in the coun­try be­cause it didn’t have a good fam­ily back­ground, which is nec­es­sary for a de­cent life.

As far as he re­mem­bers, Lee had two English classes a week dur­ing mid­dle school but had no mo­ti­va­tion to learn the lan­guage. He merely stud­ied to get a good grade to get into a good high school.

When asked what sur­prised him the most in Eng­land, he said “di­ver­sity” — so many dif­fer­ent types of peo­ple liv­ing to­gether — along with free mu­se­ums.

As a com­mu­ni­ca­tion ma­jor at So­gang Univer­sity, Lee Jeong-hyeok wants to be a doc­u­men­tary pro­ducer and keeps study­ing English to learn about broad­cast­ing in other coun­tries. If he be­comes a doc­u­men­tary pro­ducer, he said he would like to pro­duce pro­grams that help peo­ple un­der­stand the cul­tures of the two Koreas.

“It looks like there are some en­ter­tain­ment pro­grams that try to elim­i­nate a gap be­tween the two coun­tries,” Lee Jeong-hyeok said. “But I would like to pro­duce rather se­ri­ous doc­u­men­taries about so­cial uni­fi­ca­tion if the Koreas are uni­fied.”

Lee Guen-hyuck has two dreams. For his ca­reer, he wants to study hu­man re­sources so he can be an ad­vi­sor to South Korean com­pa­nies on how to train peo­ple from the North.

But ul­ti­mately, he dreams of re­unit­ing with the friends he left be­hind and build­ing a na­tion where they can live to­gether.

“A com­mu­nity is where I would feel hap­pi­ness; a com­mu­nity where not only my fam­ily, but my friends and rel­a­tives would live to­gether,” he says.

Lee said many coun­tries seem to be los­ing com­mu­nity feel­ings, and close neigh­bor­hood re­la­tion­ships are dis­ap­pear­ing.

“When I was there, hav­ing a TV was not very common in North Korea, so it was a bor­ing en­vi­ron­ment if an in­di­vid­ual spent their time alone. Peo­ple tended to share their time with peo­ple around them,” he says. “That was the driv­ing force of their hap­pi­ness amid poverty.”

Serena didn’t think about a dream when she was in the North, aside from get­ting mar­ried and hav­ing chil­dren.

“But I came to South Korea and peo­ple kept ask­ing me, ‘What is your dream?’” she says.

Now she wants to be an in­ter­preter of Chi­nese, English and Korean to pre­pare for re­uni­fi­ca­tion.

“I want to play a con­crete role in so­ci­ety if the Koreas unify some­day,” she says. “I have ex­pe­ri­enced th­ese coun­tries — the two Koreas, China and Bri­tain — and I be­lieve I will be an ace in­ter­preter of th­ese lan­guages.”

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