Seoul Has a Duty to N.Korean Orphans

      March 11, 2011 13:52

      An estimated 20,000 North Korean children are orphaned and adrift in other countries because their parents died while escaping the North or because they were abandoned by their North Korean mothers and fathers from third countries, mainly China. Only 100 of them have been brought to South Korea and recognized so they can receive medical and educational benefits. Neither South Korea nor the countries of their fathers are interested in caring for them.  

      Meanwhile the U.S. Senate has introduced for two straight years a bill seeking to help Americans adopt these stateless orphans. Han Sang-man (66), who was adopted by an American when he was orphaned during the 1950-53 Korean War, said, "It's my mission to get these North Korean orphans to meet a nice American family like I did." Han created a foundation to support the cause and is active in efforts to bring North Korean orphans to the U.S.

      North Korea is rounding up people fleeing across its border to escape hunger and sending them to political prison camps, and it is full of starving homeless children wandering around begging for food. There is no way North Korea would show even an iota of interest in saving the children drifting around overseas, and it would also be useless to expect any compassion from countries like China, which has been forcefully returning any North Korean defector caught within its borders. South Korea is the only country that can and must save these children by providing them with food and education.

      Yet neither the government nor the National Assembly has conducted a single study of the number of North Korean orphans adrift abroad. The North Korea human rights bill, which was tabled in the National Assembly to aid defectors, has been awaiting ratification for six years due to concerns that the move could upset the North. Since the Korean War, 200,000 Korean orphans have been adopted overseas, including children who lost their parents during the war, and half of them found new homes in the U.S. It would be a shame for South Korea if it were to let the international community take care of Korean orphans once again.

      The government and National Assembly must hurry up and grasp the plight of stateless North Korean orphans adrift abroad by cooperating with international aid groups and other agencies. And they must get to work finding ways to help them.

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