N. Korean Defectors to Get More Job Incentives

Korea Times
Lee Jin-woo
The government has decided to slash the amount of cash provided to North Korean defectors who come to South Korea and to focus more on helping them find jobs here, the Ministry of Unification said Thursday.

According to the plan, the subsidy provided in cash for the settlement of North Korean defectors will be cut from the current 10 million won ($9,500) to 6 million won. The amount is based on a one-person family and varies according to the number of people in the family.

Those who have come to Seoul since Jan. 1 this year will be subject to the new regulations, the ministry said.

The ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said it would almost double incentives to encourage North Korean defectors to find workplaces in the South.

Regardless of their annual income, a North Korean employee will get up to 15 million won for three years.

Some 4.5 million won would be provided after the first year of labor, which will increase by 500,000 won per year up to 5.5 million won for the third year.

Previously, the labor incentive was 9 million won over three years.

The new measure will be effective retroactively to defectors who have arrived from the beginning Jan. 1 of last year.

Despite the cut, the total amount of subsidies will be slightly lower than now, as the ministry decided to provide 13 million won, up from 10 million, for each one-man family to help find housing in the South, the ministry said.

Those who are handicapped or suffer from a serious disease will get up to 15.4 million won, it said.

“North Koreans should no longer sit idle in South Korean society,’’ Kim Joong-tae, acting chief of the ministry’s social and cultural exchange bureau, told reporters. “The incentive is aimed at increasing support for North Korean defectors who are trying to adapt to South Korean society.’’

Life is getting more challenging for North Koreans arriving in the South. As the number has surged, the government subsidy for each defector has plummeted.

Many North Korean defectors have complained that the government’s decision lacks an understanding of the harsh reality that they face in Korean society.

“Officials are ignoring the fact that the majority of North Korean defectors who come here after years of hardship in China and other Southeast Asian countries are not able to work normally for a certain period of time,’’ Lee Hae-young, an official of an association of North Korean defectors in Seoul, told The Korea Times.

Lee said it takes about five years for defectors adjust to a completely different market society.

“I think only about three out of 10 defectors who arrive in the South are healthy enough to work,’’ Lee said.

The total number of North Korean defectors to the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War is presumed to have surpassed 10,000 early this year, according to the ministry.


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