Mr Sehyuk Oh, the first Saetormin (North Korean new-settler) recipient of an FCO Chevening Scholarship wrote this guest blog for the British Embassy in Seoul. He completed a master’s degree in globalisation and development at the University of Sheffield and recently returned to South Korea.
For those who are interested in studying in the UK, the FCO’s Chevening scholarship scheme is now open for applications. Find out more information about the scholarship opportunities.
I had been planning to study abroad since my master course finished in February 2011. But the plan was not easily materialised due to various personal problems I had. Like to others who wish to go overseas for studying, leaving where you live and starting your academic career abroad meant a lot to me as well. As a North Korean, it was almost a life-time wish to study in a foreign developed country as in my home country even travelling by aeroplane seemed to be a never-come true dream.
Escaping from the North, arriving in South Korea and studying in undergraduate and graduate school, studying overseas was a big challenge to overcome my personal limits. While I was thinking seriously about my future role for development of North Korea and the unification, I happened to apply for UK Government’s scholarship called Chevening and was selected as the first DPRK origin scholar in 2011. I left for England in September 2011 to study a master course in International Development at Sheffield University.
I had always thought I was lack of something all other South Korean students had although I made every efforts to catch up. This feeling of deficiency was filled up through the Chevening scholarship. Through the English for the Future programme the British Embassy ran, I took extensive English language courses at the British Council in Seoul for a couple of months before I went to UK.
Also, I was able to focus on my study without any financial concerns, which was inevitably a burden in my defector life. Becoming a part of Chevening human network means that I can share ideas and thoughts with my alumni from all over the world and meet academics and professionals I wouldn’t have dreamed of.
After all, a few days before I flew back to Seoul at a reception held at Foreign & Commonwealth Offices I met a few scholars from North Korea. I had always dreamt about becoming the first North Korean defector who returns to the home country when the two Koreas are united some day. It was almost like my dream coming true when I bumped into these two scholars at the reception and had a friendly discussion with them.
I now am looking forward to building more networks through Chevening alumni and hope through the network I can meet people to let them know about human right situation in the North. I also wish to have very tiny stepping stones to be connected to the unification in the future.