Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Hanawon facility too small

Excerpt of a column by Moon Gab-sik, an editorial writer of the Chosun Ilbo, writing about Hanawon, the South Korean resettlement facility:

Experts say that today's "Hanawon", built to suit the situation of 10 years ago, is too small to accommodate the increasing number of North Korean defectors. The facility has provided North Korean defectors with two means -- subsidies and job placements -- to help them into the local labor market. But these two means seem mostly ineffective. If things continue as usual, there will be no way to prevent North Korean refugees who make it to South Korea from becoming an impoverished class.

There are many more problems that cannot be solved by laws or systems: the suffering defectors will experience if they fail to succeed, their children's education, and South Koreans' dim attitudes towards Northerners. Even if it were in a position to do so, the current government would be hard pressed to sort out all the problems facing the 10,000 North Korean refugees here today.

The population of North Korea is some 20 million, or 2,000 times more than the 10,000 in the South. We can think of those 10,000 as students taking the SAT exam to prepare for the process of college admissions called the reunification of Korea.

In those terms, we South Koreans are like students too busy goofing off to prepare for the future. It's worrying to think what might happen if the truce line were to collapse tomorrow -- because we are totally unprepared.

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