Friday, October 17, 2008

North Korean defectors struggle to build a new life in South Korea

Building a new life in South Korea has become harder for North Korean refugees since the government cut cash grants paid to help the settlement process from 28 million won ($24,000) to 10 million won in 2004. They were cut again to 6 million won last year.

Reverend Kim Sung Won, who runs the Great Vision School for North Koreans outside Seoul, said one student left for the U.K. last year, explaining he wanted to live in a place where he wouldn't be discriminated against.

"I thought all I had to do was bring them to South Korea and things would all be okay," said Kim, who helped more than 400 North Koreans escape to the south before he opened the school with seven teenagers in 2004. Kim may be forced to close the school because of dwindling public and private financial support.

The young North Koreans in the south "are the future of a unified Korea, who will help bridge the gap between the two countries," Kim said. "People's brutal treatment of these youngsters just goes to show how South Korea is so not ready for unification."


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