Defectors to Exceed 10,000

Preparations Needed for Their Explosive Increase
Korea Times

The number of defectors from North Korea is expected to exceed 10,000 shortly, according to the concerned authorities. As of the end of September, the total number of defectors here stood at 9,140. However, considering some 700 defectors are waiting to make an entrance at Korean consulates in Thailand, Mongolia and China, it is only a matter of time to see their number exceed 10,000. Because of this, people have no choice but to ask the government if it is really prepared to absorb them into our society.

Their re-settlement here seems to be neither easy nor smooth. A recent report states the number of those having problems due to their failure to settle here is increasing. It may be true for the government that their arrival in growing numbers is not always welcome. At the height of inter-Korean confrontation in the 1960s through 1980s, defectors were received here with a hero’s welcome, and were guaranteed a large amount of money and other fringe benefits on re-settlement.

But, the situation changed in the 1990s when the number of arrivals began to rise. With the growing mood of inter-Korean reconciliation, the political significance of their arrival has come to be greatly devalued. Their status has been undeniably demoted to mere refugees, who escaped the Stalinist state in search of better lives. The number of defectors, which stood at about 600 in 1989, has increased by more than 15 times to about 10,000 over the last 17 years.

According to concerned authorities, more than 1,000 people from the North have made their way here every year since 2002. Their arrival is no longer considered news by the media here. The defectors are known to have much difficulty in assimilating themselves to the capitalistic way of living. The amount of money given to help them settle here has dwindled greatly compared to that in the past.

It is almost impossible for them to find decent jobs to support themselves, especially when unemployment is rising. Due to the utter difficulty of living here, a growing number of defectors are found to have committed crimes. The number of crimes committed by them due to the difficulties of living stood at 54 in 2001, but increased to 89 in 2002, 90 in 2003 and 93 in 2004.

There are even those, though small in number, who leave South Korea due to the economic difficulties they have experienced. What worries people is that political or military upheaval in the North could cause tens or hundreds of thousands of southbound refugees. The government is asked to seriously think what it can do about the matter before the situation drifts beyond the point of no return.


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