Sunday, June 5, 2011

North Korean Defectors to Visit U.S. on Government-sponsored WEST program

Yonhap reports that a group of five North Korean defectors currently enrolled in South Korean colleges will visit the United States on a US government-sponsored programme reserved, until now, for South Korean students only, a government official said today.The five North Korean defectors will likely head for the United States next month, according to the official from Seoul's Unification Ministry."The US Embassy in South Korea and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology selected the five students in April for the West programme," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.Under the student exchange program, South Korean students can visit the United States for up to 18 months -- five months of mandatory language programmes plus internships up to one year long at US companies, followed by one month reserved for free travels.Thousands of students have visited or are visiting the United States under the programme since its launch in early 2009, but no one originally from North Korea had been offered the chance until now. "We believe the programme will help North Korean defectors get wider experience and better prepare for their future employment," the ministry official said."The ministry will consider extending the programme to more North Korean defectors," he said, adding there are currently about 850 college students here who defected from North Korea.

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