All About Hanawon, South Korea’s Current North Korean Defection Center


With the intention of utilizing an educational facility as an integral part of the project program, I look at the current Hanawon program and all of its relevant characteristics and functions, as their curriculum is very similar to the intended narrative that I want for North Korean defectors on a larger scale.

What is the Hanawon Center?

Founded in 1999, Hanawon is the current center developed by the government that serves as the resettlement center for North Korea defectors. The central center is located in Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, where the North Korean defectors receive support to adjust into South Korean society from the government. Since 2006, there are a total of 8,428 North Korean defectors in South Korea. Furthermore, there were approximately 6,900 North Koreans that graduated from Hanawon since 1999.


There is a total of 22 Hana Centers scattered around South Korea:
* 4 in Seoul
* 4 in Kyonggi-do
* 2 in Incheon
* 2 in Kwangju
* 2 in Kangwon-do
* 2 in Chungchong-Namdo
* 2 in Kyongsang-Bukto
* 1 in Daegu
* 1 in Taejon
* 1 in Kyongsang-Namdo
* 1 in Cholla-Namdo

Process from Entry

  • First, they spend 1 month in the National Intelligence Service. There is not much publicity about this facility because the South Korean side didn’t want to be seen helping the people that North Korea considers traitors of their country.
  • Next, they spend 3 months learning the educational curriculum of adjusting into South Korea society. The classes are primarily about life in South Korea, but not necessarily about other countries and worldwide issues, unless specified otherwise.


  • After they complete the educational curriculum, they are given a $20,000 stipend and are provided with low-cost public housing.
  • They are also entitled to welfare benefits in case of unemployment issues / cash incentives for job training.

What is the given curriculum consisted of?

The three-month curriculum is centered around three crucial goals:
1) Easing the socioeconomic and psychological anxiety of the North Korean defectors
2) Providing practical training for earning a livelihood in the South
3) Overcoming the obstacles of cultural heterogeneity

Because they have to adjust to post modern day South Korean society, they need to learn the new political and economic systems, because after they are released, they need to sustain themselves with paying jobs. They re-learn the history of the Korean peninsula.


They are taught the essentials of everyday life, such as:
* Learning how to use an ATM,
* Receiving lessons on human rights and the principles of democracy,
* Paying an electric bill,
* Driving a car,
* Reading the Latin alphabet,
* Speaking with a South Korean dialect,
* Taking field trips to learn how to buy clothes, get haircuts, and eating at food courts.

Issues Regarding Hiding Their “North Korean” Identity

The NKD (Association of North Korean Defectors) stresses the fact that a lot of North Koreans are discriminated against once they reveal the fact that they are North Korean. Once one North Korean makes a mistake at a workplace, then it is generalized towards all North Koreans. When they look for a job, they are only assigned menial tasks, and have to move from one part-time job to another. There is an ongoing issue of South Koreans stereotyping North Koreans. I did another article covering a VICE Interview where they interview several North Koreans as they recollect their experiences of discrimination, where there was even an incident where they withhold their pay purely from the fact that she was North Korean.


There was another incident where a South Korean woman married a North Korean man, but her family was heavily against the marriage, which was only allowed to happen when they found out that the man’s father was sick and his last dying wish was to see them get married. But even after the marriage, the wife would hide the fact that he was North Korean from her friends. The North Korean man would contemplate whether hiding his heritage or identity as a North Korean was overall a good or bad thing. He speculates that hiding it overall a convenient thing, but still thinks of it as a sad thing, as it who he is.


This brings up a few questions. Must they hide the fact that they’re North Korean in order to facilitate how they live the rest of their life, or do they make a stand and be proud from where they come? For my thesis proposal, I speculate how the North Korean and South Korean should be considered spiritual equals when thinking about Korean Reunification, as the way they are currently taught at the Hanawon Center is setting the scenario for North Korea being completely absorbed by the South Korean side.

That’s not unification.

That’s just one side eating the other.

I understand that this sets up a difficult problem for me to solve regarding they can be equally unified, including the wealth gap, and different government systems. I believe that the advantages of blockchain technology and the utilization of a new cryptocurrency will be able to establish that liaison that can make the impossible, possible.

Speculative Questions

1) Should North Koreans erase their identity as North Koreans due to the stereotypes that they receive from South Koreans?
2) Which aspects or roots from North Korean culture should they be proud of?




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