Connect: North Korea charity helps escapees settle in the UK

London charity helps North Koreans settle in the UK
Image source Unsplash

Escapees from North Korea will be helped to acclimatise to life in the UK thanks to new funding for a charity in south-west London.

New Malden has become an unlikely focal point for those fleeing Kim Jung-un’s secretive dictatorship and is home to the biggest North Korean population outside the Korean peninsula.

Since 2018, it’s also been home to Connect: North Korea, which offers advice and support on issues such as accessing healthcare, utilities and housing, alongside vocational training.

The charity will be able to help more people thanks to a £50,000 grant from City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.

City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson said: “People fleeing North Korea to come to the UK have often been through very traumatic experiences, may have had to leave family behind and face a huge culture shock when starting life here.

“Connect: North Korea provides a lifeline, offering practical and emotional support to help them adjust to life in the UK and enabling them to connect with others who’ve been through similar experiences.”

New Malden’s status as home to hundreds of North Koreans and thousands of South Koreans dates back to when it was the base for the South Korean embassy and UK headquarters of the South Korean electronics giant Samsung.

North Koreans arriving in the neighbourhood have often escaped via the country’s northern border with China, via Mongolia or Thailand. Most are women, many of them victims of sex trafficking.

Alongside practical and vocational advice and support, Connect: North Korea also offers mental health support to help North Koreans affected by the trauma of leaving their homes and starting life in a new country very different to the one they left behind.

NOW READ: Police don’t have the power to remove Just Stop Oil protesters

Connect: North Korea Programme Manager Catherine Dawkins said: “The thing that really affects North Koreans is the overwhelming nature of choice – what to wear, what to eat, what to buy in the supermarket – because in their home country there’s very limited choice and freedom.

“The biggest challenge they face is the language barrier, which affects every facet of their lives from being able to find housing to opening a bank account.

“There’s also sometimes a mistrust of the authorities and even if they’re eligible to access a service, they may be unwilling to do so. We can help them to set up and accompany them to appointments and explain what services are and how they work.

“We’re able to help people to express themselves in a way they couldn’t before, to live with less anxiety and have better relationships. They also feel part of a community of North Koreans in the UK, which is really vital.”

The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, awarding grants of over £28 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital.

For the latest headlines from the City of London and beyond, follow City Matters on TwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.