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London’s North Koreans learn English online

North Korean defectors living in the UK, many of whom have lost their jobs and don’t qualify for government Covid-19 financial support, are intensifying their efforts to learn English during the lockdown.

According to a report by Voice of America some 20 volunteer English teachers are currently teaching them online.  Their first online English lesson featured vocabulary and phrases around Covid-19, describing possible symptoms and asking for help.

An increasing number of North Korean defectors opt to settle in the UK, often straight from China or after a short stay in South Korea. An estimated 1000 have settled in New Malden, a London suburb which is also home to an established South Korean community.

Before the lockdown, North Koreans tended to work in precarious “gig economy” jobs such as minicab driver or cleaners. Others have applied for refugee status, which means they cannot work.

Image courtesy of Vice: Thomas Hjelm
Matt Salusbury
Matt Salusbury
MATT SALUSBURY, news editor and journalist, has worked for EL Gazette since 2007. He is also joint Chair of the London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists and co-edits its newsletter, the Freelance. He taught English language for 15 years in the Netherlands, in Turkey, in a North London further education college and now as an English for Academic Purposes tutor, most recently at the London School of Economics. He is a native English speaker and is also fluent in Dutch.
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