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Envy of office workers leads to studying computers and linking North Korean refugees to computerized
NKRF Date 2021-11-12 Hit 301

Envy of office workers leads to studying computers and linking North Korean refugees to computerized tax accounting employment


 


 


In Yangcheon-gu, Seoul, there is the ‘Himang Nuri Lifelong Education Center’ affiliated with the Women’s Association for the Future of the Korean Peninsula, established in 2014 with the permission of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. The director of this place is Nam Young-hwa, a North Korean refugee who entered Korea in 2003. From the early days of its establishment until now, the institute has produced about 1,000 trainees and helped them find employment while conducting computer and other informatization training courses that North Korean refugees desperately need to settle in society.




Learning computers out of envying office workers
Until the early 2000s, few North Korean refugees entering South Korea knew about computers. It was the same for Nam Young-hwa. She was introduced to computers at Hanawon for the first time, but after being assigned a house, she worked in a restaurant and fish market, so she forgot all about it. When she was working at the fish market, she went to work early in the morning and came home late at night. Her workplace was close to home, so she always wore her comfortable work attire while women in nice coats walked before her. One day, she suddenly remembered the coat she had bought shortly after coming to Korea, so the next morning, she put the coat on and went to work. However, since she worked at a seafood store, there was no place to hang the coat so she just left it to the side. Seeing that, her boss said that the nice coat would soak in the odor so he suggested she leave the coat upstairs in the office. She had been working at the store for a few months but had never been up to the office until then. In the spacious office, there was an accountant working on a computer. As she hung her coat, she took a quick look and saw the staff member crunch in a lot of numbers and immediately get answers, which amazed her.
“Oh wow, aren’t such calculations done on electronic calculators?” “Electronic calculators? Nowadays we just use Excel…” Excel? Seeing her confusion, the accountant kindly informed her that she could do this kind of work after learning at a vocational school for three to four months. Coincidently, news came that a local vocational school was recruiting North Korean refugee digitization trainees.
She quit her job at the store and registered in an academy. There were 20 trainees, but there weren’t many people who studied hard the computer curriculum that taught them the basics. However, she was different because she was determined to learn how to use a computer well and to take on the challenge of applying for a job in accounting. She obtained several certifications. The head of the academy and staff also encouraged her to study hard and go for what she wanted.
After graduating from the academy, she started studying the basics of computers again in 2006 at the National Information Society Agency, a public institution supporting the development of national digitization policies and the settlement of digital divide. Then one day, she received a phone call from the manager of the vocational school, Park Mun-woo, who had always supported her. He had recommended her as an assistant lecturer. It was like a dream. The pay was low but that didn’t matter. She was worried whether she would be able to handle the position of an assistant lecturer at a private academy, teaching non-North Korean refugees at that. She had sent in her resume to over 20 places in pursuit of her ‘dream’ of being an accountant and had been anxiously awaiting and wondering if her dream would come true, so when the news came, her heart almost burst with excitement.





From Assistant Lecturer to Professional Lecturer
The request had come from OO Computing Vocational College in Seongnam, Gyeonggi-do. The interview required her to prepare and present a PPT (a program used to effectively communicate various materials) for 10 minutes on a subject she was best at. She passed the interview and became a lecturer, but the salary was lower than expected. Even when she wasn’t paid at all while resting for 2-3 months because of the educational process licensing, she took on all the work, from dirty to dry work, with the idea that everything would be manageable even if the school just gave her a desk.
But there were difficulties. The vocational college opened a training course for North Korean refugees, but there were differences in opinions. Ms. Nam suggested leading the trainees from education and certification to employment, while the vocational college considered 3 months of education its duty. She knew, however, just how difficult it was for a North Korean refugee to be employed even after graduating from academies and obtaining certifications. Afterwards, while working as a lecturer at another vocational school, she solidified her conviction and idea of creating an educational institution for North Korean refugees that would also take responsibility for their employment. In the meantime, she acquired all the information education-related certifications, including industrial engineering, computer literacy, word processor, and ITQ instructor certification. She also worked as an assistant lecturer for more than 3 years in the field, fully qualifying and preparing herself as a formal lecturer.






Taking responsibility for the digitization education and employment of North Korean refugees
Finally, in 2014, with the permission of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, the Himang Nuri Lifelong Education Center, affiliated with the Women’s Association for the Future of the Korean Peninsula, was established. All the staff at the institute, including the director, are North Korean refugees. Until now, the institute has been operating the lifelong education curriculum, the Ministry of Unification curriculum, the incumbent curriculum, and Ministry of Labor curriculum. In addition, there are Computer IT Course, Computer Utilization Ability Level 2 Certification Course, NCS Graphic Practice, NCS Accounting Practice, Computer Accounting Level 1 Certification Course, Computerized Tax Accounting Practitioner Training Course, Computerized Tax Accounting & Administrative Practice, IT Practice Improvement Course, Digital Editing Designer Training, Excel & Computer Utilization Level 2, graphic design (Photoshop Level 1), and digital editorial designer training courses, education processes which produced about 1,000 trainees.
That is not all. After word of mouth spread about Director Nam Young-hwa and the institute, at the request of parents of North Korean refugee students living near the institute, free middle school math education, Photoshop education, and vocational education for North Korean teenage refugees were provided free of charge. In addition, total speech education, domestic violence counseling-education, sexual violence counseling-education, and art psychology counselor training were provided for North Korean refugees, as well as opportunities to make friends with each other. Most of the trainees said that they were satisfied with the curriculum.
In particular, the satisfaction of trainees in the computerized tax and accounting course, which has been conducted through the selection of the South-North Hana Foundation open call project since 2020, is very high. The enthusiasm of the lecturers, who have been teaching North Korean refugees for many years, combined with the enthusiasm of the trainees have succeeded in 90% of the trainees obtaining certificates and finding employment.
This is the wonderful result of the efforts of Director Nam and the institute’s staff, who made it the mission of the institute to provide customized education, tailored to the competence of North Korean refugees, together with excellent lecturers, all to ensure that all trainees would be able to obtain certificates with excellent grades and succeed in employment.
Director Nam, who has been an adjunct professor in the Department of Business Administration at Gukje Cyber University since 2017, has completed her doctoral program at Ajou University and is preparing her thesis. She said that when she first started the institute, there were quite a few people around her saying that she should just stick to being an instructor, and asked, “Why start an institute?” However, as Director Nam has done up to now, she will continue to provide digitization education for North Korean defectors so they can settle in society with stability and will be an educator who will strive to keep the promise of being responsible for the employment of trainees.

 

In Yangcheon-gu, Seoul, there is the ‘Himang Nuri Lifelong Education Center’ affiliated with the Women’s Association for the Future of the Korean Peninsula, established in 2014 with the permission of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. The director of this place is Nam Young-hwa, a North Korean refugee who entered Korea in 2003. From the early days of its establishment until now, the institute has produced about 1,000 trainees and helped them find employment while conducting computer and other informatization training courses that North Korean refugees desperately need to settle in society.