Healing school to open for young N Korean defectors

SOUTH KOREA _ An organisation dedicated to helping North Korean defectors plans to open a school next month to educate and heal the physical and psychological wounds of young refugees from the North.

Named after a flower called forget-me-not in English, Mulmangcho School will be run by Dream Makers for North Korea, led by former lawmaker Park Sun-young.

"Our aim is to provide art therapy in the form of poetry, music, and fine arts in the vast plains of Mother Nature, away from the hustle-and-bustle of Seoul," Park told The Korea Herald.

Park, a law professor of Dongguk University, garnered attention with her 77-day hunger strike early this year in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul against China's repatriation of North Korean defectors.

Her struggle sparked similar protests around the world, drawing global attention to the issue of North Korean refugees' human rights.

The school to open Sept. 21 will be located in a serene environment surrounded by green fields.

The average suicide rate of North Korean defectors in South Korea is five times that of their South Korean peers, according to Park.

"We hope the young defectors can recuperate and get in touch with their inner self," said Park.

The school is funded by private donors, as it failed to secure government support.

"I personally paid a visit to the Ministry of Unification, pleading with the minister and the vice minister, but to no avail," said Park.

"We received not a dime."

Park believes that properly educating young North Korean defectors is a crucial step to preparing for unification and improving the lives of the North Korean people.

The school will feature individualized education catering to each student's education level and offering opportunities to study abroad in the United States.

"Our hope is that one of our students will one day become the Angela Merkel of Korea," said Park, referring to the current German chancellor, who was raised in East Germany when it was under communist rule. "The students we educate today will one day lead the unification of the Korean Peninsula."

Park was the leading National Assembly member in pushing for legislation securing refugee status for North Korean defectors and calling on Pyongyang to improve its human rights situation.

"We as a nation have a duty not to forget those who were lost in the tides of our tragic modern history. They include our compatriots in Sakhalin, the comfort women, and North Korean defectors," she said during her hunger-strike.

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