Monday, September 21, 2009

Helping the North Korean Defectors

The Seoul Diocese linking with the Catholic Farmers Association are helping North Korean defectors to move to the country. There are well over 16,000 now in Korea and they expect to have about 20,000 next year The Korean Government gives the defectors about 6 thousand dollars and a short period of reeducation to settle in South Korea.

Different terms are used to refer to these refugees. Saeteomin (people of new land) was the word used in the article in the Catholic Times. Talbukja (people who fled the North) is commonly used but not favored by the refugees and not pleasant to the ears of the North. A newer term is "residents who renounced North Korea". They are all refugees looking for a better life and for most it is not easily achieved.

It is a difficult move for many. They have fled political persecution and severe shortages of food and medicine; arriving in a new land and settling into a new culture is demanding. The diocese has many programs to acclimate them to this new life in the South. The Protestants are doing much more and have been involved much longer but the diocese of Seoul with the help of Save The Farm Movement and the Catholic Farmers Association is serving as mentors to those who choose to live in the country.

The biggest problems facing North Korean defectors are unemployment and poverty. A large percentage of North Korean defectors are jobless and many others have to live on a pittance. Most have temporary work, and only a small minority find full-time positions or start their own business. It is difficult for the government to provide indefinite assistance.

The North Koreans find it difficult to shed the label defectors which they dislike. One refugee sighing : "I will have to get use to being a foreigner. The culture, economy, the value system is just too difficult to adapt to." This will be a large problem when unification does come.

A refugee from the North, Mr. Kim who is now a member of the Kwangju Catholic Farmers Association is helping those who choose to settle in the farming areas. He tells all those that he mentors to look closely and deeply into the reasons you have settled here in the farming area. He tells them if they were looking for an easy life the chances they will fail are great.

Helping the North Korean refugees is a great work and will tell South Korea how successful they will be in becoming one nation again when unification does come.

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