Home > Our Work > Leadership Development > Eyes of Pyongyang > Hidden Identities in School

Hidden Identities in School

By Kim Il-Ho

A hilarious story of a North Korean student in high school: The student was a high school senior, and he hid the fact that he was from North Korea. He was three years older than his peers and he hid this from everyone but his homeroom teacher. He studied hard for three years, became first in the class, and made a lot of friends. However, one thing he had a hard time with was that he could not communicate with his friends well. Since he was three years older than his classmates, his ways of thinking were different, but he studied hard and did his best to fit in with them. Although high school seniors were young for him, he eventually became close to them. He joked around with them often and they playfully beat up on each other. One day, when he was having a consultation with his homeroom teacher, one of his friends hit him on the head and said, “Bro, have a good consultation, cute boy.” The teacher said “That little rude brat to his elder brother!” and the students just laughed it off. Only students who have had to hide their true identities in school can understand the hardships of living in such a way. North Korean defectors have to hide their identities since most South Korean students have a misguided perception of North Koreans.

This is something I experienced during my middle school years. One transfer student came to my school while I was hiding the fact that I was from North Korea. This student honestly told his classmates that he was from North Korea and that he was older than them. A few days later, my friends started talking behind his back. I did not know what to do. I just listened to them but could not correct their wrong thoughts. Three months later, the student ended up leaving the school. I witnessed this situation with my own eyes. So how could I be expected to be open about my true identity? For the first time, I realized how horrible it was to come from North Korea.