S.Korea Must Give Defectors Real Opportunities

      February 11, 2015 13:28

      North Korean defectors in South Korea earned just W1.47 million a month on average last year, two thirds the overall average monthly wage of W2.33 million (US$1=W1,092).

      A survey on 12,700 defectors by the Korea Hana Foundation, which helps them settle here, also found that they worked 47 hours on average a week, 2.9 hours more than workers on the whole.

      There are now some 25,000 North Korean defectors in South Korea. Making sure that the defectors can make a living and care for their families may be the first step toward reunification. If the South fails to embrace them and help them assimilate, how is it going to care for the 25 million North Koreans after reunification?

      Defectors face a harsh reality. They are often paid lower wages than South Koreans in the same jobs and in many cases not on time. In the latest survey, 25 percent of defectors said they were discriminated against.

      Unemployment among North Koreans here stands at 6.2 percent, almost double the overall rate of 3.2 percent. And 32 percent of North Korean defectors rely on government support to make ends meet.

      The time has come for South Korean society to throw away its bias against defectors and come up with genuine opportunities for them. The government must bolster actions to help defectors learn new skills, offer them a wider range of work training programs and put a system in place to help them find a stable job.

      Most of all, major businesses need to offer defectors jobs. It would be an investment for the future, since they will need North Korea experts to prepare for reunification. And they should treat them equally with their South Korean counterparts. 

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