SEOUL – One of the first things North Korean defector Ri Kwang-myong did after reaching the South was to go back to school — 12 years after finishing his education.

North Korea claims a 100 percent literacy rate and boasts that its free compulsory education demonstrates the superiority of its socialist system.

But those who escape from the impoverished country often struggle in the South from a lack of basic knowledge. Lessons at North Korean schools are peppered with praise for the leadership, and education is also disrupted for many by grinding poverty or by defectors’ long journey to freedom.

Ri, 31, is among a handful of adult students at Wooridul School in Seoul, an educational haven for North Korean students who are too old

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