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N.Korean defector wins British scholarship to study in UK

N.Korean defector wins British scholarship to study in UK

Posted July. 19, 2012 07:31,   


A North Korean defector has been selected to receive the U.K.’s Chevening Scholarship, expressing hope Wednesday that he can help North Koreans understand South Korean culture after reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

In an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo at the British Council in Seoul, Hong Seong-il, 29, said, “Just as South Koreans experience American culture through Starbucks Coffee, I`d like to help North Koreans understand South Korean culture after the North opens up to the outside world or if the two Koreas are reunified.”

The British government offers the scholarship to students abroad to help them study in the U.K. London began to include one defector among South Korean beneficiaries last year.

As the second defector to study in Britain, Hong has applied to King’s College of the London School of Economics. He expects to pursue a master’s degree in cultural psychology for one year from September.

“I hope to continue to study cultural psychology after studying in Britain so that I can help minimize the psychological and cultural shocks North Koreans will likely experience after reunification or the North’s opening,” he said.

He said he made up his mind while studying psychology at Yonsei University in Seoul. At the time, one of his professors told him that South Korean women who buy Starbucks coffee do not just prefer expensive coffee but also consume American culture.

“It`s possible that a hierarchical structure and negative biases will be formed between South Koreans, who enjoy higher culture, and North Koreans, who would belong to a subculture,” Hong said. “I hope to be able to reduce the gaps.”

Born and raised in Hamhung of North Korea`s South Hamgyong Province, Hong fled the Stalinist country in 1997 and attended middle school in Shenyang, China, before defecting to the South in August 2000 via Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. His sister also defected to the South in 2005, but their father stayed in the North and died three years ago.