Monday, October 26, 2009

North Korean defectors fail to assimilate in S. Korean society

Four hundred seventy North Korean refugees who arrived in South Korea aboard two chartered flights from Vietnam in July, 2004, five years ago, still struggle to adapt to their new home.

A survey found that most defectors are still wandering around and struggling to survive in the South. Their noticeable linguistic accent, cultural differences, and a public reluctant to embrace them were the main reasons preventing their assimilation.

Compounding the problem for the defectors was their family members still in the North or hiding in China. Many defectors said they sent their resettlement subsidies from South Korea to their families in North Korea or China. Many were sending all of the money they earned in the South to their families in the North.

Dong-A met six North Korean defectors in London who were granted political asylum there. They said they receive unemployment and childrearing subsidies and medical care, and have a better life in England than in South Korea.

In conducting the survey, Dong-A Ilbo sent questionnaires to the 470 defectors for three months, and conducted face-to-face, phone and written interviews to find out their occupations, income, housing situation and life satisfaction.

Yeom Yoo-shik, a sociology professor at Yonsei University, commented, “This is the first time so many North Korean defectors were selected randomly and surveyed extensively. We can learn what factors are important for North Koreans to adapt to South Korea. As such, the study will be a great reference for Seoul in setting subsidy policy.”

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