Written by Janine Perri (ETA 2015-16)
This year, more than 50 Fulbright ETAs are volunteering to teach English to North Korean defectors (NKD) throughout the country. To better facilitate relationships with NKD students and improve ETAs’ teaching skills, the U.S. Embassy provided a substantial grant for the second annual North Korean Defector Conference.
Hosted by the Empathy Guesthouse/Daegu Hana Center, the conference took place from November 6th to the 8th. Twenty-one students, 16 staff members from the Empathy Guesthouse/Daegu Hana Center, and 34 teachers and mentors attended, including Fulbright ETAs, EPIK teachers, and English instructors from the Daegu area.
The theme of the conference was “Painting a Brighter Tomorrow.” As part of the weekend, the students and teachers painted a mural of the world, as well as mini pictures of what peace and happiness meant to them. On Friday, November 6th, Jane Cho, the Secretary General of the Daegu Hana Center, delivered a lecture about the center’s history and mission, as well as the hardships that defectors endure when they flee from the North and resettle in the South. The next morning, the teachers attended workshops about teaching methods and discussed resources for teaching North Korean defectors.
When the students arrived on Saturday afternoon, the teachers and students participated in artistic projects like the mural. All participants in the conference spent Sunday morning on a cultural excursion to the famous Daegu Market. The Hana Center finished the conference with a few personal stories from defectors.
Margaret Cleveland, a 2015-2016 ETA and an NKD coordinator in Daegu, said, “I really enjoyed seeing the whole event come together. It was fun to see the mentor and student interactions, as well as see the mural come together as a whole. Because I personally spend a lot of time at the Empathy Guesthouse, I am excited to get to see the finished product and benefits from it throughout my time in Korea. I know our NKD students are going to take a lot of pride in the hard work they put in to make it and it will be a fun reminder for them of the camp!“