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Skills of North Korean defectors no value in South

Northern Skills Have No Value in South

While a tiny number of North Korean defectors earn high-status jobs here, others complain that professional skills learned in the North go unrecognized in the South.

Huh Myung-hui, 27, became the first North Korean woman to earn a license to practice medicine in South Korea after graduating from Yonsei University this year. Ms. Huh ― not her real name, which she did not want to give to prevent repercussions against relatives still in the North ― did not want to be interviewed or her picture to be taken.

But another North Korean defector recently admitted to a South Korean oriental medicine school said she wished more defectors could continue to practice professions they formerly held in the North. The South does not recognize their qualifications or experiences.

Acupuncturist Kim Ji-eun, 39, filed a petition with the National Assembly last August asking the South Korean government that she be allowed to transfer to a medical school here.

Born in North Hamgyeong province, she studied at a college there that qualified her as a traditional medicine specialist. She worked as an oriental medicine doctor for eight years in North Korea until she defected South in 2002. But her qualifications were not recognized here. She had forgotten to pack her licenses when she fled.

"Through a person I knew in China, I received employment certificates from hospitals I used to work at and turned them in," Ms. Kim said. "But I was not given the chance to take the South Korean medical examination, nor allowed to enter a college here."

But in the South, a medicine major must pass a state-run examination to earn a license; in the North, a medical school graduate automatically becomes a doctor.

"There is no way to prove what defectors studied or whether they were educated properly," said Kwon Yong-jin, a spokesperson for the Korean Medical Association. "It is dangerous to let an unconfirmed person practice medicine."

JoongAng Ilbo
Im Jang-hyuk, Jeong Kang-hyun

© Scoop Media

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