Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How North Koreans-turned-South Korean stand out

China can verify whether a South Korean citizen is a North Korean defector by checking a social-security number, the last four digits of the social-security number indicate where the identification was issued. North Korean refugees are issued a code that indicates they are from Ansung city, the locale of a training center called Hanawon where all North Korean refugees go through a few months of settlement training to adapt to their new life in the South.

Based on this peculiar ID pattern, many North Korean settlers are often denied a Chinese entry visa. At the same time, they are also subject to employment discrimination from South Korean companies that avoid hiring them because of their lack of job skills and cultural differences.

The South Korean government abolished the problematic system in June and initiated a new one in which North Koreans receive social-security numbers that show the place of their choice of residence, not Ansung.

The remedy, however, is still not perfect. Those who received their social-security numbers before the launch of the new system still have to use their old ID, and it's impossible for them to change their ID numbers because doing so would require a change of the relevant law and parliamentary approval.

[Excerpt of an article by Sunny Lee, The Asian Times]

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