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Comprehensive Consultation Call Center for North Korean Defectors 1577-6635
SUCCESS STORY
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Overcoming Challenges Made a Best Version of Me
NKRF Date 2021-09-17 Hit 290

Overcoming Challenges Made a Best Version of Me

 


 

After a 7-year military service, Kim Sook (a pseudonym), born in Chongjin, came back home and happened to hear KBS radio in the early 1990’s, which made her long for South Korea. The fact that people in South Korea used pagers for contact with their lovers and it took 9 hours to go back home during Chuseok because of bumper-to-bumper traffic on the road was sharply contrasted with the reality of North Korea. After listening to the radio for 3 years, she resolved to defect from North Korea. She crossed the Dumangang River in 2001, after long efforts to persuade her family.
After going through hardships, all her family settled down in South Korea, but she was afraid because the society of South Korea was very competitive, even though she was adventurous and passionate. She just didn’t know what to do because of the diversity of jobs and felt sad about the future. Among countless jobs in the brochure of job introductions, a jewel designer and a nurse were the two most appealing to her. She thought over which one was better for her and finally determined to study nursing in college despite her age.



Dare to Fight
When she left Hanawon in February 2002, the application period for colleges was already over. However, she couldn’t delay achieving her dream because she would become 35 years old in a few months, which was the last age at which she could get financial support from the government to enter college. She was so earnest and desperate to be a nurse, and that made people around her deeply touched.

A detective in charge who heard her story called every college to find out if she could be admitted to study nursing science.
“I was so desperate back then. We made tons of calls to every college on the list. Then the Department of Nursing at Gimcheon Science College in Gyeongsangbuk-do offered to grant admission. They said they could give me a chance after the council of professors.”
As it turned out, there were concerns among the professors during the council’s meeting about how a North Korean refugee student would handle the whole curriculum of the Department of Nursing. But they came to the conclusion that studying is what students do and giving a chance to study is what the professor’s council does.




Like Climbing a Mountain
As she already knew, studying wasn’t that easy. Technical terms were everywhere, and worse, titles like physiology, anatomy, pathology, etc., were huge obstacles in starting to study nursing. She always sat in the front row and tried to listen to every single word from professors and noted them down. And she kept going over what she had done until she fully understood.
Her sleeping hours were reduced markedly, and she never spent more than 4 hours sleeping until she graduated. “I wasn’t discouraged and just moved forward, just like climbing a mountain.” One who never gives up will go to the top of the mountain. After 4 years of a hard battle, she was ranked in the top 30% in the Department of Nursing when she graduated.
One Big Lesson
However, it wasn’t the end to graduate college, and there was a higher mountain to climb: getting a job. The mountain looked even steeper to her.
She ran around everywhere to apply for jobs, but never got answers. She was so eager as to write a letter of how she wanted to work for Baek Nak-hwan, the former chief director of Paik Hospital. After a little while, the secretary of the chief director called her to say she could apply. She went through several stages and met the chief director Baek in the final interview, and she said he heard from her how hard she and her family lived in South Korea, and then he told her like this.
“I really wanted to see who wrote the desperate and adventurous letter. If you wanted to work for Paik Hospital so badly, there was a way to work here as an administrative staff instead of a nurse. Living as a nurse means you have to get accustomed to a hierarchy like a military culture. So if you as a newcomer, as old as a head nurse, enter into the nurse world, other nurses who are already working would feel uncomfortable. Therefore, I suggested an administrative position to you.”
She deliberated for a minute but hit on her last 4 years: how hard she worked to become a nurse. “Mr. Baek, I really appreciate you telling me how important it is to follow the rules in South Korea. But I can’t give up on being a nurse no matter what.”
She recollected how precious a chance the interview was to her. And the lesson that she got from it was an invaluable asset to living in South Korea.



Never Stop Challenging Limits
After that, she began to work at a small local surgical hospital as a nurse and then moved to a large hospital, like a general hospital, in Busan. The hospital was large enough to have emergency rooms, orthopedics, neurosurgery, etc., and she took advantage of the large capacity of the hospital and experienced all kinds of medical departments comprehensively.
However, she couldn’t stop there, and decided to move on to get a US nurse’s license. As far as she knew, becoming a US nurse was her dream job because they didn’t need to retire and could make as much money as doctors. In that sense, being a US nurse meant having a platform to do whatever she wanted as a professional. Using maternity leave, she prepared for the exam. Next year, she flew to Hawaii to take the exam and passed it after a time. Nevertheless, so many people around her worried about her moving to the USA and living there as a nurse, and eventually she decided to turn become a civil servant, and yet her English skills are still very helpful. Then, she began to be a civil servant as a nurse at Chuncheon National Hospital.
With over 10 certifications such as childcare teacher level 1, sports massage level 1, US nurse, and exercise prescriber, as well as her experience in nursing in various fields, she was highly recognized and passed, beating out rivals in her 20s.
Even after she became a civil servant, her challenges continued. While working at Chuncheon National Hospital, she obtained a mental health nurse's license and completed her master's program at the University of North Korean Studies.




Nothing is Better Than Going Home to Family
One dawn, she came home after a night shift and suddenly a significant moment came to her:
What was happiness? Her children were always tired of waiting for their mom and at night fell asleep in the bed, which was filthy and unwashed.
 
She then looked for places with regular commuting hours to increase the time she spent with her family, and she was finally able to find and apply to her current workplace, the Central Education and Training Institute. Now in her third year here, she said she was finally able to find a balance between work and home.
Meanwhile, her daughter, who graduated from the university of education, was assigned to a nearby elementary school, and now her whole family is living together. This means that there are two civil servants in one household. “Looking back, I have met many mountains in my life. I silently overcame all those mountains, such as defecting from North Korea, entering college, studying nursing, finding a job, and challenging civil servants. In the end, I think those mountains that I climbed made me who I am today.”

 

fter a 7-year military service, Kim Sook (a pseudonym), born in Chongjin, came back home and happened to hear KBS radio in the early 1990’s, which made her long for South Korea. The fact that people in South Korea used pagers for contact with their lovers and it took 9 hours to go back home during Chuseok because of bumper-to-bumper traffic on the road was sharply contrasted with the reality of North Korea. After listening to the radio for 3 years, she resolved to defect from North Korea. She crossed the Dumangang River in 2001, after long efforts to persuade her family.