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Australia invites N.K. defectors for English-learning program

The Australian government has invited five North Korean defectors to study English for up to 30 weeks this year in the first run of its state-subsidized English-learning program, organizers said recently.

The students, now South Korean citizens, will leave in September to join the University of Technology Sydney’s INSEARCH, a practice-oriented university in Sydney. The program is offered in partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Australia-Korea Foundation and the South Korean Ministry of Unification.

Each scholarship, valued at around 38,000 Australian dollars ($28,300), covers the full cost of tuition, return flights, accommodations and living expenses.

“These scholarships are unique as they offer the highest level of support and financial assistance available for former North Korean students to study English in Sydney,” said Australia-Korea Foundation board member professor James Cotton.

UTS:INSEARCH’s managing director Alex Murphy said the programs are specially designed to help students learn through an integrated curriculum by combining innovative online resources with face-to-face classroom teaching in small groups.

“We believe this is an important opportunity to assist five young Koreans to build brighter futures and good careers by helping them to improve their English skills,” Murphy said.

This partnership is the first to offer fully funded English language scholarships in Australia for former North Korean students.

This initiative follows a two-year pilot program by UTS:INSEARCH, which offered two English language tuition-only scholarships each year as a trial to develop the program.

Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Center Director and UTS academic Bronwen Dalton, who was on the selection panel, said the initiative symbolized the two governments’ mutual values.

“This is the type of initiative that UTS and both governments can justifiably be proud of, as it touches on values Koreans and Australians share; a genuine commitment to helping each country to find innovative solutions to social disadvantage, and ensuring that young people of all backgrounds are given the chance to realize their potential,” Dalton said.

Similar programs have been offered to North Korean defectors in other countries. In 2011, three young North Korean defectors living in South Korea won scholarships offered by the U.S. government for study and internships at American universities. 

By Tang Li (
Intern reporter