Saturday, May 06, 2006

North Koreans Find Life Less Than Ideal in South

For North Koreans who manage to flee their repressive homeland and move to the South, reality can be cold. More than 7,000 North Koreans live in the South - most arrived in the past six years. Tens of thousands more are believed to be in China, awaiting the chance to make the journey.

North Koreans living [in South Korea] are called "sae tomin", or "new settlers". For sae tomin, aggressively capitalist South Korea is jarringly different from the home they left behind.

New arrivals spend their first three months in South Korea in a facility learning to cope with their new home. They are spoon-fed the most basic principles of life in a modern, capitalist country: from handling cash and using an automatic teller machine, to grocery shopping and seeking a job.

They then receive a one-time resettlement stipend of about $36,000.

This training and aid, though a tiny part of the government budget, causes some resentment among many South Koreans, who view the defectors as a drain of public resources.

Tim Peters is a Christian activist who works with North Korean arrivals. He says many are shocked to discover that they must now compete to be hired - and that it can be too easy to be fired. In the North, jobs are assigned by the state, and partly because of inadequate electricity and raw materials, many workers actually do little work.

"In North Korea, the culture of work is you don't do a darn thing unless you're told to do it," he said. "In South Korea, if you are not doing something, the boss is saying, 'why don't you take initiative, why don't you do that?' Well, you take six months of this in a Korean workplace, and this guy is out on his ear, because he looks like a sloucher, a loafer."

[Excerpt of an article by Kurt Achin, Voice of America]

No comments: