North Korean defectors are no longer staying long in their southern neighbor, quitting South Korea for more hospitable nations or avoiding their brother country altogether, according to South Korean government data.
“It was hard to put up with discrimination from South Koreans when I came from North Korea,” Kim Dan-bi, a 26-year-old defector, tells Yonhap News Agency. Kim has lived in South Korea for some six years, and says about one-third of her 60 North Korean friends have left South Korea since she defected.
Of the approximately 900 North Koreans South Korea’s Unification Ministry estimates to have no physical address for as of June, about 83 percent have moved abroad, South Korean lawmaker Lee Seok-hyun of the ruling Democratic Party said November 3. The 746 defectors to leave this year have gone to 25 nations worldwide, with Canada (169), the US (113) and the UK (97) being some of the most popular destinations, South Korean police data shows.
About 31,093 North Korean defectors were registered with South Korea’s Unification Ministry as of late September. A sweeping majority, about 71 percent of those registered, are women.
Lee called on South Korea to strengthen worker support programs for North Korean defectors.
Potential policy actions could include offering a temporary stipend to defectors, providing assistance to job seekers and cultivating communities for North Korean defectors living in the South to intermingle with their southern counterparts.
“The focus should be put on helping them get proper jobs,” the legislator said.
Kim Young-hui, 52, tells Yonhap that after leaving North Korea in 2003 to live in Seoul, it was “really hard to settle here at first … having a friend who can give you advice and psychological support will be a huge help.”