After defection comes rejection

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After defection comes rejection

A recently aired drama series “Doctor Stranger” was the most-viewed program in its time slot with its story of a brilliant physician who defects from North Korea and succeeds in the South. However, a survey released yesterday shows that seldom happens in the real world.

The survey by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Evaluation and Planning (Kistep) and North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, a Seoul-based group that supports skilled defectors, showed the Korean science and technology sector is ill-prepared to actively accept defectors or tap their knowledge.

The survey covered 30 scientists and engineers who defected from North Korea and have resided in Korea an average of eight years. They previously worked as university professors, researchers and engineers when they lived in the North.

About 73 percent of highly skilled defectors said they felt a barrier to entering science and technology fields, citing reasons like differences in the educational systems of the North and South and failure to recognize academic credentials, work experience and certifications obtained in their home country. The also mentioned differences in the jargon of the two countries.

Two-thirds of those surveyed said they had tried to find jobs in science and technology after coming to the South using their credentials, and half of those said the South Korean system didn’t recognize them.

Only 26 percent of participants said they put their knowledge and experience to full use after entering the South Korean science industry.

Sixty percent of the participants predicted they would not be able to find jobs related to their experience within the next 10 years.

However, the survey showed defectors who are professionals are highly motivated to work in the South Korean science sector, and they remain passionate about careers.

More than half of survey participants said they are willing to work for state-run research projects in areas like software, food engineering, big data and cryptology.

The state-run science policy research institute advised the Presidential Committee for Unification Preparation established last Tuesday to pay more attention to coming up with practical solutions for technology integration between the South and North, and open wider opportunities for defector scientists to use their skills.

“This study showed how we are still not ready to accept and make good use of talent from North Korea,” said Ahn Sang-jin, a research fellow at Kistep. “One of the most crucial tasks to prepare for future unification is to adjust our current science and technology R&D system to prevent North Korean professionals from wasting their expert knowledge in the South and eventually make them a growth engine of a unified Korea.”

“The government should implement a career assessment and retraining system in the education curriculum at Hanawon, the state-run resettlement center for newly arrived defectors,” said Lee Seung-gyu, a senior researcher at Kistep.

BY kim ji-yoon []

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