Hanawon, established on July 8th, 1999, is the government resettlement center for North Korean defectors. It is located in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, which is about an hour south from Seoul. Hanawon is the place in which North Korean defectors would go and can get support and help when they first arrived in South Korea.
Hanawon offers the 3-month resettlement program for North Korean defectors to help them to adapt to a new environment (South Korea) with different culture, economic system, politics, etc. During the 3-month program, it provides basic education on culture and history, training, psychotherapeutic counseling, and so on. After the 3-month program at Hanawon, North Korean defectors are put on family register, get a house with a government subsidy, and may get job offers. When North Korean defectors scatter to all different regions of South Korea, they can still get help and support from the government resettlement center, called Hana Center.
There are 22 Hana Centers in Korea- Seoul (4), Inch’on (2), Daegu (1), Taejon (1), Kwangju (2), Kyonggi-do (4), Kangwon-do (2), Chungchong-Namdo (2), Kyongsang-Bukto (2), Kyongsang-Namdo (1), Cholla-Namdo (1)
Hana Center is like a supplemental place in which works with North Korean defectors who have finished the 3-month program at Hanawon more closely in their residential areas, so the center can provide more practical and specific help that North Korean defectors need. North Korean defectors get 3 weeks of education about the particular regions they live in and get any services or help they need, such as language, for one year so that they can successfully adjust to their new residential life and people.
From August 16th to Augutst 21st, 2010, 8 Wellesley College students and 1 Boston University student volunteered at Hana Centers. I (Haesun Cho), Christine Oh, and Lydia Kim from Wellesley College volunteered at a Hana Center in Gunja, Ansan-Si, Kyonggi-Do, in which provides services to North Korean defector living in Ansan, Suwon, Gunpo, and Uiwang areas in Kyonggi-Do (Please refer to Fig. 1).
On the first day of volunteering, we taught 8 North Korean defectors English for an hour. We taught Alphabet and sang an English song together. We also taught them how to write their names and addresses in English and simple dialogues, such as ‘My name is (Haesun Cho)’. Although they were not familiar with English in general, they were eager to learn and asked many questions.
After teaching English, we all planted sansevieria in a small vase and gave the ones we made to one another. By planting sansevieria together and giving it to one another, we could get much closer to one another.
For the rest of the week, CL, Lydia, and I took classes with North Korean defectors, went to swimming pool together (The majority of the defectors had never been to swimming pool before!), ate lunch together, etc. I was grateful that I could build close relationships with them as I spent time together and shared our thoughts and lives.