May 31, 2016 11:27
A total of 29,137 North Koreans had defected to South Korea as of March this year, 77 percent of them women. But not many have managed to make a success of their lives and integrate into the South.
The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights in a survey on 403 defectors in March found that 57.8 percent make less than W1 million a month, 29.7 percent W1-2 million and only 10 percent more than W2 million (US$1=W1,192).
Some 37.7 percent are living on welfare compared to only 2.6 percent of South Koreans.
The inability to achieve financial independence results in anxiety, and of the 20.8 percent of defectors who hope to return to the North one day, some 75 percent earn less than W1.5 million a month.
Sohn Kwang-joo at the Korea Hana Foundation, which helps defectors settle here, said defectors often say they hope to return to the North after reunification so they can teach other North Koreans what they have learned in the South.
"The 30,000 defectors will serve as bridges connecting North and South Koreans who have grown a long way apart," he added.
South Koreans must learn to live with 24 million North Koreans after reunification, and the defectors who are here already provide a test case for their ability or inability to do that.
That means "it is important to help North Korean defectors get on their feet here, so we need to look for better systemic support and teach them the necessary skills," he added.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com