North Korean refugees in South Korea when allowed to talk about their problems in the South are often speaking about difficulties with the culture of the South. One of them who is a college student and has been in the country for 5 years, writes about some of these difficulties in her column in the Catholic Times.
the five years, she
says, much has changed. Having been born and educated in the North,
she finds many things here in the South strange and difficult to get
accustomed to. One of most difficult would be the many different words
hello...thank you...I'm sorry. Why, she asks, is it so difficult for
her to utter these words? They are not words she is accustomed to using,
and so she has difficulty speaking them. When she hears these words she
doesn't know how to reply, and avoids looking at the person. Even
though her head tells her to respond the lips will not go along.
is not that they do not have words of greeting in the North, but in the
South one expresses their intentions and thoughts so freely that it is
difficult to make a response that is not awkward, she says.
problem develops when it comes to choosing. Those in the South
also have problems with making selections, but with the writer her
problem is that she is fearful to choose. In the North the education
is the cramming method and she was brought up in a different social
structure than exists here in the South, and the opportunities to choose were not many. In a word, she says,
they are not practiced in the ways of choosing. When a friend asks:
"What do you want to eat, where do you want to go?" Her constant
answer is: "whatever you want."
In her first job in a
market she uttered her words of greeting like a robot. It was difficult
and when she got home she would practice this often to make it a habit.
After a period of time this did become easier and more natural. Not only were the
words of greeting easier to say but also the ability to express what she felt inside
Even when it comes to choosing, no
longer does she have the problems of the past. When asked does she
want coffee or tea she readily answers: "I will have coffee". Her friends
are surprised to see the change in her responses.
come a long way from what it was 5 years ago. Time was necessary, but today she is able to speak freely about her
feelings and make the choices that come her way. It did take time but
today she feels she has made a successful transition to life in the South.
much the culture in which we live influences us is readily forgotten
and yet the pressures and impact they have on our behavior is not small.
What we think is our choice is not infrequently the influence of the
culture, either in acquiescence or in opposition, and only rarely is it
the act of a free and intelligent human being.