Let’s help defectors adapt to new society
Nearly 20,000 North Korean defectors are living in South Korea. Most of them fled from hunger and oppression under the military dictatorship in pursuit of food and freedom. They risked their lives to realize their South Korean dream. No doubt the defectors have aspired to lead a decent life here.
But a question still remains to be answered: Can they really see their dream come true and do they still have much hope for a future here? It’s not easy to expect a positive answer. The reason is that they face another problem following their arrival in the South. They find it hard to adapt to a capitalist society.
…The number of North Korean defectors living here stood at 19,569 at the end of August, a 10-fold increase from a decade ago. Around 42 percent of them work as day laborers with their monthly income amounting to less than 1 million won ($890). As a result, they can hardly meet their minimum living costs. No less than 60 percent of the escapees have to rely on state support for their livelihood.
…North Korean defectors have been treated as third-class citizens. They have endured far worse treatment at workplaces than migrant workers from Southeast Asian countries. Some critics point to the defectors’ lack of effort to adjust themselves to the competitive capitalist society. However, the embedded cause of their hardship reflects how closed South Korean society still is to those from outside.
The Korean War Baby laments that this article again shows the unfortunate attitude of a large portion of Korean Society. Not all, but a majority of Korean people still view “outsiders” with suspicions, fears, prejudice, and just non-acceptance in general. This is difficult for those considered NOT part of the “WooRi” or the “US/WE” concept that permeates the Confucian social structure of life in present day Korea. Globalization has only brought modern technologies but not YET openness to “outsiders”. With more than 5 percent of the population consisting of “Foreigners/outsiders” Korea needs to continue to change their hearts and minds.
Patience must be maintained as we “help the younger generation” by teaching them, meeting with them in public and private settings. Those who have just arrived may suffer cultural shock but hopefully they will toughen up, buck up, and smile and tell local folks why staring or talking about someone as though they don’t understand Korean is simply RUDE.
North Korean refugees have even attempted to leave the South after finding life here unbearable.
North Korean refugees head for home
By Andrei Lankov
Sisa Journal, an influential and well-informed South Korean weekly, recently published interesting statistics. It is well known that some 20,000 North Korean refugees currently reside in South Korea. However, the magazine reports that an estimated 200 of them are not here any more. Surprisingly, they have moved back to the North.
- a few dozen, perhaps, are North Korea spies who completed their missions and went back to Pyongyang to receive their medals and promotions.
- those refugees who were disappointed with life in South Korea.
- some refugees cannot stand the thought of the families they left behind. Many of them move back to reunite with their families.
The returnees are actually treated well in North Korea, used for propaganda purposes of course. But the most disturbing thing is that they and others who escape to other countries pretending to have just escaped the North as in this article:
A 13-year-old girl gave her father`s letter to a guard in Hamgyeongbukdo at North Korea`s border with China. The guard, perhaps bribed by the girl`s father, told her to wait until nightfall. Several weeks earlier, Oh Hanna`s (not her real name) home was visited by security agents. "They found a bundle of Chinese money and cell phones after searching the house," Hanna recalls.
She remembers that her father, like many others in the town, was engaged in business with China. But possessing foreign currency and a cell phone is a serious crime in the North. The men took her father away for several days.
After her dad returned home safely, he feared for the safety of his family, and he told her: "If you stay here, our whole family will face imprisonment." He gave her a letter and told her to give it to the person in charge at the border near her hometown. That is her last memory of her father.
When darkness covered the area, the guard pointed a dim flashlight toward the other side of the river, in China, and let Hanna and her 10-year-old sister cross the Duman, which flows between North Korea and China. It was March, and it was still so cold that the river was frozen. Hanna held her sister`s hand tightly and they started running across the ice toward the lights on the opposite bank. This was the beginning of a long, hard journey.
However, after only a year in her dream country, she realized that it was a pipe dream. Eight months ago, the sisters fled to the UK, and they now live in Wales as refugees. Why did they risk their lives again to leave South Korea? This is not merely a human rights question. It involves several issues of social and cultural concern, as well as some obstacles to the reunification of the Koreas.
Some North Koreans, like Hanna, leave the South, the country they had fled to at the risk of their lives. The Daily NK, the Seoul based newspaper which specializes in news about North Korea, reported in December 2007 that the number of North Koreans leaving the South for the UK or other countries is increasing.
The Voice of America, the official external broadcasting service of the United States, reported that 245 North Koreans in South Korea moved to the UK between October and December in 2007, adding to a total of 415 North Korean asylum-seekers in the UK last year.
This Is Korea, TIK, This is why the KWB tells about these prevailing attitudes. For Korean Adoptees and all those involved in This Thing of Ours-Adoption to understand ALL the complex issues that must be sorted through to find balance and truth, even the Inconvenient Truths.
The Korean War Baby