"An Unexpected Friendship"
It has been 7 years(in 2016) since Charles Usher first came to South Korea. Half way through his working journey in Seoul, Charles who had been working mostly with the local students, suddenly found his life take an unexpected turn. As one day, a close companion suggested Charles to join PSCORE’s education program; a program which strives for the improvement of North Korean human rights by connecting volunteer instructors with North Korean defector students, residing in South Korea.
“My friend, who was participating in PSCORE’s educational program at the time, suggested me to join. It seemed like a highly interesting program, especially since I had always been interested in North Korean defectors.”
Regarding such opportunity as an incredible chance to support the North Korean cause, Charles unquestionably decided to join the program. After a number of steps for further register at PSCORE, Charles was matched with his first and most memorable student. The friendship had begun ever since.
How long have you been tutoring for?
After a long journey, Charles describes the relationship with his student as a strong friendship. Although the classes between Charles and his student had to end, the two still keep in touch. Charles successfully continues to teach English, while his student went on to auspiciously pursue a degree in law. “I have been tutoring my student for 3 years. Unfortunately, our session had ended because my student had moved to a different city in order to pursue a law degree. However, we still stay in contact.”
What were your personal goals as tutor through your teaching?
“I did not have a specific goal, rather, I wanted better understanding of North Korea and how life was like for them in the North.” Additionally, Charles sought to gain knowledge on how North Korean defectors adjusted to the South Korean society.
What are some of your memories/episodes of something related to your volunteer experience and what kind of emotions do you feel when you think back to those memories?
Charles describes his relationship with his student to be very close and rather casual. He also recalls one of his most memorable episodes with his student which describes the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il. Ever since the first leader Kim Il Sung’s totalitarian rule had been established in North Korea, a god-like status has been adopted and passed down to the future leaders, Kim Jong Il as well as the present leader, Kim Jong Un. North Korean people often view the supreme leaders as gods who do not possess human-like traits. “I remember hearing about my student’s childhood in North Korea. One of the memorable stories was about when he learned for the first time that Kim Jong Il poops.” Additionally, Charles also vividly recalls the time he learned about his student’s extraordinary escape story from North Korea.
What was your perception on North Korean defectors before tutoring? And how did it change?
“Prior to our first meeting, I expected my student to be educationally behind. However, that perception was wrong. Although, my student was lacking academic background, his outstanding work ethics helped him achieve his goal of attending law school.”
What would you tell someone considering to volunteer for our organization?
“I would definitely recommend. The tutoring volunteer experience is really enjoyable and helpful for students. It is equally important to be patient and cautious about bringing up the topic of their time in North Korea as it is a sensitive memory for them. Rather it is necessary to remember that the point is to tutor and to get to know the student.”