Tuesday, February 13, 2007

South Korea policy changes re: North Korean refugees

South Korea announced a new grants policy that rewards refugees from North Korea who find jobs, and at the same time reduces settlement aid to new arrivals.

The one-time settlement aid given to defectors from North Korea would be cut to six million won ($6,521) from 10 million won ($10,868), the Unification Ministry said. The grant had stood at 28 million won ($30,429) before it was cut to 10 million in 2005.

The ministry will increase cash incentives for refugees who have found jobs. It will pay each person a total of 15 million won ($16,302), up from the previous nine million won, over a three-year period once the worker has been registered on a payroll for one year.

"The past system can be paralleled to catching fish for North Korean defectors, while the new system is aimed at helping to teach them how to fish," Mr Kim Joong Tae, a ministry director, told journalists.

Another ministry official said that refugees engaged in 'self-help efforts' to settle down in South Korea would benefit the most from the new system. 'Many North Korean defectors do not bother to find regular jobs in order to benefit from the social security network,' he said on condition of anonymity.

"The government encourages them to seek jobs and provides them with job training. It also provides financial incentives to companies hiring them," he added.

[Agence France Press]

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