Thursday, December 14, 2006

North Korean Defectors looking for work

Even back in North Korea, Hong Tae-myong wanted to be a driver, but simply getting a license after defecting to South Korea wasn't enough to get a job. He also had to lie about where he came from.

"That's how I got a job here so far. I learned this after dozens of rejections in job interviews," the 30-year-old said while filling out his resume at a government-sponsored job fair for defectors.
"When I identified myself as a North Korean defector, they would not hire me," he said.

Hong was among about 500 hopefuls at the fair, part of government efforts aimed at helping defectors overcome the widespread prejudice they face in their new home.

When the two Koreas were locked in intense Cold War rivalry, North Korean defectors received heroes' welcomes in the South and were given houses, jobs and other financial assistance. But with the number of defectors growing rapidly in recent years, the new arrivals are increasingly considered a social problem.

More than 9,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the 1950 to 1953 Korean War, with about 7,000 of them coming to the South since 2002. The total number of defectors is expected to top the 10,000 mark early next year, according to the Unification Ministry.

Many defectors are believed to be living below the poverty line because they can't get decent jobs due mainly to a lack of education and widespread prejudice among South Koreans, who view those from the socialist system as lazy.

Hong complains that South Koreans look down on North Koreans. "Even if I have the same ability as a South Korean, I'm considered inferior,'' he said.

[Taipei Times]

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