N.Korean Refugees Suffering Illness, Discrimination

    February 16, 2009 08:14

    The most common ailments among North Korean refugees are dental disease followed by tuberculosis, according to Hanawon, the government-run institution for North Korean refugees.

    Hanawon director Ko Kyung-bin told AFP half of the organization's budget is spent on dental work. He said they need prosthetic teeth because they have no molars due to malnutrition. Some 10 percent of Hanawon inmates also suffer from infectious diseases including tuberculosis, he added.

    Some 20 percent of inmates also need psychological treatment after leaving the institution, Hanawon said. Many also still owe money to brokers who arranged their defection to the South and experience discrimination.

    Park Sun-yo (42) told the news agency her broker took W7 million (US$1=W1,404), leaving her penniless. She added she pretended to be an ethnic Korean from China to get a job in a restaurant since South Koreans dislike North Korean refugees. Kim Eun-hee (33) said she came to the South in the belief that it was a paradise, but South Koreans treat her as a foreigner. She says her salary of W800,000 a month in a paper factory is far less than what others there earn.

    AFP said only 45 percent of North Korean refugees find jobs after leaving Hanawon.

    Ko called on South Koreans to see North Korean refugees not merely as victims but consider their bravery in risking their lives to escape the Stalinist country.

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