Feb 11- Defectors from North Korea graduate from a school to prepare them for living in a capitalist state. Maryam Ishani reports.
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Seventy-seven defectors from North Korea graduated from their school in South Korea on Friday.
Students collected their diplomas from Hangyoreh Middle and High School, a school set up to prepare young defectors for the huge changes they face living in a capitalist state.
Many of those graduating will be going to college.
Robert King, the U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, congratulated them on their success.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR NORTH KOREAN HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES, ROBERT KING, SAYING:
"You're here in part because of your own efforts and you've worked very hard. And I congratulate you on that hard work."
Some students were moved to tears as teachers washed their feet during a ceremony symbolising their new life ahead.
And graduates said that despite the challenges before them, they now felt ready to move forward.
(SOUNDBITE) (Korean) 23-YEAR-OLD NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR, JANG HYUN-CHUL, SAYING:
"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 leaving this school."
More than 20,000 North Koreans have defected to the affluent South to escape poverty and repression in the North.
The two Koreas are still technically at war since the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice.
Maryam Ishani, Reuters.
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