Friday, February 16, 2007

North Koreans in South Korea

Only a small fraction of those who cross into China get to South Korea, with either the help of Christian missionary groups or professional smugglers.

Still, the number has doubled each year since 1998, according to the South Korean government. The North Koreans get a subsidized apartment, social and vocational training, a lump-sum bonus and a monthly allowance. Even with that help, they are bewildered aliens from a tightly controlled nation frozen in the 1950s.

They arrive to a boisterous, competitive society. And despite the cliches in South Korea about brotherhood with those in the North, the defectors say they are greeted with discrimination that makes some wonder whether they made the right choice. For five years, they must regularly report their activities to authorities.

"It's not easy for us to live here," said Han, who fled when his radio was found. "South Koreans don't understand the hardships. They don't care, and they don't understand."

[Excerpt of an article by Doug Struck, Washington Post]

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