Wednesday, February 14, 2007

North Koreans face adjustment problems in South Korea

North Koreans who flee their impoverished communist country often face severe problems adjusting to life in the world's 11th largest capitalist economy, with South Korea's per capita gross domestic product almost 20 times that of the North.

Most defectors are unskilled or semi-skilled workers or farmers and face problems finding jobs that they are able to do. Some say they face discrimination by South Korean employers, who view people from the socialist system as lazy.

A 2004 survey showed that 38 per cent of North Koreans living in the South were jobless, compared to the national average of around 3 per cent. Many defectors are believed to be living below the poverty line.

To help defectors from North Korea assimilate, the South Korean government runs a training center where they attend classes in cultural studies and skills-related training. They are also taught basic skills such as how to ride the subway, use a mobile phone and buy goods in a supermarket.

The United States Committee for Human Rights in North Korea said in a report last December that South Korea had been adopting an increasingly unwelcoming attitude to the refugees. It described Seoul's policies as 'shamefully' ambivalent. The government, which pursues a 'sunshine' engagement policy with the North, 'increasingly perceives these newcomers as a source of trouble and unnecessary expenditure', the report said.

[Agence France Press]

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