March 21, 2012 07:36
Song Ji-young is the only North Korean defector working as a job counselor at the Seoul Metropolitan Government's Seoul Job Plus Center. Song (34) has been working there since January, trying to find jobs for other North Korean defectors. She says South Koreans often have no idea she comes from the North as she does not have a typical North Korean accent.
Song left behind her hometown and comfortable job as an announcer and crossed the Duman (or Tumen) River into China in 2004. Her job entailed reciting the Workers Party motto over the loudspeaker every day at a large factory in a coal mining area of North Hamgyong Province with 3,000 to 5,000 workers.
She decided to escape when she learned that police was trying to accuse Song's family of spying after they found out that she was in touch with her elder brother, who defected to the South after contracting tuberculosis during the famine of the 1990s.
She and her younger sister embarked on the perilous journey, and after five months of living under constant threat of repatriation in China made it to South Korea.
"Although it was hard to adapt, I really wanted to have a life as a university student after all the difficult times I had to endure," she says.
After two years, she enrolled at Chungang University and studied advertising and PR, thinking that this could help her understand South Korean culture and return to her former career. She spotted the job advertisement for the Seoul Job Plus Center when she was about to graduate, and felt that this was her calling.
The South Korean government awards a certain amount of subsidies to companies that hire North Koreans who have just arrived in South Korea. But Song says businesses still have strong prejudices against North Koreans. "It would be much easier for a South Korean to get the job even if a North Korean applicant has lots of professional certificates and experience," she says. "Although it takes some time for North Koreans to get used to work at first, many are later praised for doing a better job than others."
Her dream is to find jobs for all North Korean defectors. "I've just started, but I want to keep working in this field, and when the two Koreas get reunified, I hope to share my experiences and skills. I'd like to work in this field forever."
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com