Sunday, October 17, 2004

North Korean Defectors in South Korea

This is a sad article about North Korean defectors that have fled to South Korea. Due to their lack of understanding of the capitalistic economic system, the North Koreans are having financial difficulties.

According to a report filed by the Unification Ministry, approximately 70 percent of North Korean defectors were living on government allowances, while only 1.45% of the defectors were actually employed.

To combat these issues, the South Korean government has made it mandatory that North Korean defectors attend the Unification Ministry institution called Hanawon, which according to defectors "focus more on South Korean culture and capitalist systems rather than teaching practical skills such as how they can make a living in South Korea."

And indeed, the program has been ineffective. "Each North Korean family receives a small-sized apartment upon graduation of Hanawon and a 600,000 won per month subsidy from the government." However, many, if not all North Koreans still live in miserable conditions and in fact, are even viewed in a condescending manner by the South Koreans.

Nam Sung-wook, a political science professor at Korea University, agreed that "More and more defectors may move [to South Korea], but things show our society is still not prepared to accept them. If we don’t take proper steps, defectors will become a huge burden for South Korea in the future."

A government report from South Korea estimated that there are currently 3,559 defectors in South Korea. This number is projected to "surpass the 10,000 mark [in South Korea] as early as next year with more than 300,000 defectors estimated to be living in China." Despite the small number of defectors currently in South Korea, the South Koreans are having a difficult time assisting the defectors' transition into their new lifestyles. These defectors are still living in miserable conditions, though I am not denying that they are living better lives in South Korea.

In any event, the larger concern is the possible reunification of the North and South. Should this occur, the economy in the Korean peninsula will suffer tremendously. Despite South Korean efforts, I wonder whether a solution to this problem even exists.

No comments: