The Many Tasks of the New Elite

The subject North Korean students find most difficult to learn is English. Defector students never encountered English in North Korea, whereas Korean students who learn English in schools and academies have a lot of experience. It is almost impossible for defectors to catch up with them. Not having reached a reasonable proficiency, they cannot search in English textbooks and therefore find it difficult to get a job after graduating. Therefore, it is an important task to establish a special English institution for defectors that can provide them with appropriate English education. Financial problems could be taken care of with the support of foreign countries that are interested in defector issues.

Of course, studying abroad is the most efficient way of studying a foreign language. It may be difficult for defector students to support themselves, but there is a fairly economic way of supporting them. The United States or Australia would be unaffordable, but the Philippines is an economical and efficient country in which to study English. $6000 to $7000 per semester would be more than enough to study in the Philippines, including tuition fees, living expenses and plane tickets. Of course, talented and determined candidates should be selected. It would not be too much of a burden to pick 10 to 20 defector students who have done well in standardized tests such as TOEFL and send them to the Philippines.

Such a program could be sponsored by organizations and individuals if government support were impossible. It is only right and noble for high-income earners who have achieved a successful life after overcoming hardships to help those North Korean students who face the same challenge they faced in the past.

The obstacles defector students have to overcome are not just financial issues and English. Lack of knowledge about South Korean society also makes it difficult for defectors to build a successful career. They are not familiar with working procedures, so it is difficult for them to get a job. Also, it is difficult for them to find out what issues they have to focus on at school. This is another reason why getting a job is difficult for them. Providing defector students with a lot of opportunities for internships at corporations would be good.

The biggest problem defector students face when they are hired by a Korean corporation is adjusting themselves to the community. Through internships we can give them experience of what role they have to take and what kind of work they have to do, which will help them understand the cultural differences and adjust to them.

But what is the purpose of forming such an alternative elite? And what are they supposed to do in the future?

More than anything, as long as the Kim dictatorship survives without any significant changes, the alternative elite has a mission to exert influence on North Korean society and spread a critical social consciousness about the Kim dictatorship. Through various routes such as broadcasting stations for North Korea, they should let the North Korean people know their opinions from different places in the world.

Also, due to the spread of cell phone usage, most defectors maintain contact with their families and relatives in North Korea. Defector students who have received a good education and adjusted well to Korean society can explain that Korean society to their families in North Korea more accurately.

Secondly, if there is a sudden change in North Korea, they have the potential to perform various tasks. Defectors who took part in the North Korean democratization movement in South Korea are considered future politicians and high class administrative officers in the new North Korea. In a ‘post-Kim age,’ after the Kim regime, if there is a small number of or no such people at all, those with power will be former Workers’ Party authorities or South Koreans. Considering their backgrounds and values, they cannot lead North Korean society or gain the trust of the North Korean people. Therefore, it will be difficult for them to represent North Koreans and be their protecting power.

Alternative elite members who can apply the knowledge they learned in South Korea well in the North Korean reality could be doctors, technicians, CEOs and scholars of a post-Kim age. Re-education could cultivate specialists in the new North Korea. Despite the very low economic level, North Korea provides a fairly good basic education. Therefore, when carrying out the rehabilitation of North Korea, re-education based on the knowledge they already have is more reasonable than educating North Korean specialists such as technicians and doctors all over again from the start. An alternative elite which received a university education in South Korea and has experience of working in a modern environment with modern technologies is one which can accomplish the most in re-education.

Thirdly, there is a possibility that the North Korean regime might not break down for a long time. In this case, the alternative elites could perform an important social role in South Korea.

Regardless of the future of North Korea, there is no doubt that the number of defectors will constantly increase. 10 years from now, it is certain that the number of defectors in South Korea will exceed 50,000. Even 100,000 is possible. Therefore, issues of defectors adjusting to South Korean society will continuously be important.

Defector elite persons who graduated from prestigious universities in South Korea and succeeded will be role models to young defectors. Their experiences can prove that North Koreans do not necessarily have to be blue collar workers for good, and open a new path to future defectors.

Watching the movement of the North Korean authorities, it is certain that they are against reform and an open-door policy, and that they have decided to maintain the anachronistic Stalinist system. Such a strategy can delay the end of the Kim system, but at the same time it sharpens its crisis.

It is difficult to prepare for internal turmoil because we, as of now, cannot know specifically when and how the end of North Korean system will take place. However, no matter what happens to North Korea, an alternative elite who know about both North Korean and South Korean society and are not guilty of pro-Kim acts will be helpful in preparing for internal turmoil. In fact, there are not many means of preparing for internal turmoil which cannot be specifically predicted. But pursuing the formation of an alternative elites is one of the important means.

Such a program is cheap, but it needs to be installed over a long period of time in order to achieve any result. There seems to be no political will to systematically and continuously support such a program. Regrettably, just like other democratic countries, South Korean politicians are not interested in plans that do not seem to help them much in the next election.

So I am placing my hope in organizations and corporations rather than state institutions. But whether it is a state institution or a social organization, it is clear that the time has come to take such measures.