Sunday, October 07, 2007

And what of North Korean refugees?

In South Korea, one can spot the North Koreans by their stunted stature, the result of growing up on inadequate diets. They often seem befuddled in banks and restaurants, and they speak Korean with a noticeable accent.

They risked their lives to get here, but even when they're assimilated they earn half of what their South Korean brethren do — for drudge work. There are 11,000 of them in South Korea, trickling in at the rate of only 2,000 a year, but increasingly they're the unwanted relatives at the doorstep.

Earlier this year, South Korea cut the initial stipend that refugees receive, with an additional [amount] for housing, adding payments at the back end if immigrants hold jobs for more than a year.

The South Korean government, which fears that any crisis with Pyongyang could unleash a flood of North Korean migrants, seems to be pulling up the welcome mat. Experts say South Korea is seeking to slow the stream of refugees, in order to avert a mass exodus from North Korea and ease tensions with its unpredictable neighbor.

That will leave thousands of North Koreans stranded en route in China, Mongolia and Southeast Asia.

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