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North Korean Defectors Graduate in South Korea

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Young defectors from North Korea have graduated from school in South Korea. The U.S. envoy for North Korean human rights attended the graduation ceremony, which was an emotional experience for many students.

Seventy-seven defectors from North Korea graduated from their high school in South Korea on Friday (February 11), in a ceremony attended by the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights.

The defectors collected their diplomas from their Hangyoreh Middle and High School in Anseung, south of Seoul.

The school was set up in 2006 to prepare the young defectors for the huge changes they face living in a capitalist state.

Robert King, the U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, congratulated them on their graduation.

[Robert King, U.S. Special Envoy on Human Rights]:
"You're here in part because of your own efforts and you've worked very hard. And I congratulate you on that hard work."

One-hundred-eighty students attend the school, with 34 middle school students and 43 high school students graduating on Friday and 37 high school students entering colleges.

The ceremony became more emotional during a feet-washing ceremony symbolizing a new life for the students, with the teachers washing the graduates' feet.

Many students were moved to tears.

[Moon jeong-ah, North Korean defector]:
"I was told in the North everything was bad in South Korea, so I thought that way. Then I realized it was not true. My teachers have been so nice to me, I am really grateful. Now I am okay, but everything was quite difficult in the beginning."

Another North Korean defector agreed.

[Jang Hyun-chul, North Korean defector]:
"Everything was very difficult when I came here for the first time. I grew up a lot with the educational system. I've learned a lot here before I leave this school."