Local teacher tutored North Korean defectors

An Upshur County third-grade teacher lived in South Korea for a year and tutored North Korean defectors.

Lucy Swecker, who was the recipient of a Fulbright grant, served as an English teaching assistant at Kyungpook National University’s Attached Elementary School in Daegu, Korea from July, 2011 to July, 2012.

“Through my Fulbright Scholarship, I took on the role of people-to-people ambassador, exchanging culture through work as a teacher,” Swecker said.

Along with teaching third to sixth grade in the elementary school, Swecker volunteered to tutor North Korean defectors. More than 900 defectors live in Daegu.

“Working with the North Korean defectors was an incredible experience,” Swecker said. “When I asked one older tutee why she left North Korea she said she left because she did not have any hope and because she was hungry. Korean students were incredibly behind their South Korean peers in terms of technology and English language learning.”

Swecker said the North Korean defectors were very appreciative.

“The students I worked with were thankful for our assistance, although overall, they were a little more reluctant to interact with Americans due to government propaganda.”

She said South Koreans are very fond of Americans.

“They appreciate our country’s support and are extremely interested in American culture,” Swecker said. “The South Koreans I spoke with about issues said they are very interested in being a united country. They see the North Koreans as Koreans – they are one people.”

While in South Korea, Swecker said she did not travel to North Korea, but said she visited the DMZ two times.

“While living in South Korea, I felt no immediate threat by the North, even though Kim Jong-il passed away while I was there,” Swecker said. “They were concerned about what the new leader would do, but did not seem to be too worried. While speaking with my friends still teaching in South Korea, they have said there is little response. They are not sure what to think or how to feel.”