Thursday, February 02, 2006

Refugee Applicants asked to sing revolutionary songs

North Korean defector Kim said he had no particular plan to come to Belgium but joined a human-smuggling group that was going there.

Belgium-based interpreter Won Yong-soe said rumors were current among the thousands of North Koreans currently in hiding in China that Belgium was a favored new destination for those seeking resettlement in a third country.

On arriving in Belgium, applicants for political asylum are taken to a reception center for about a month, before undergoing screening interviews for refugee status. Several months later, those who pass the initial screening process are given permanent residency, renewable annually with the authorities.

Among the tests they must pass include a request to sing North Korean revolutionary songs, including the national anthem, and detailed questions about the education system in the isolated Stalinist state.

“The problem that the Belgian government has to solve is making a distinction between ethnic Koreans from China and North Koreans. In the past many ethnic Koreans pretended to be North Koreans,” Won said.

The Belgian government then provides unemployed North Korean defectors with €625 ($760) a month in subsistence payments: exactly the same amount received by unemployed Belgians.

[Radio Free Asia]

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