Friday, March 4, 2011

Refugees From the North Living In South Korea

A Korean Religious Sister, working with displaced persons from North Korea, writes in her column in the Peace Weekly about the questions they are frequently asked. Do you often think of home?  Do you want to return? Home, however, is a place they can't go back to, no matter how much money they have. And to talk about the desire is painful, believing. as they do, that they will not be able to return home in their life time.

At this time, with the North-South crisis at its worst,  the displaced North Koreans are finding it especially difficult to think about going home. When questioned about Yeongpyong Do, they don't know what to say when they hear this kind of  reproach. The Korean Society is still not able to distinguish between the North and North Koreans living in the South.

The displaced North Koreans (about 1300 of them living in the Incheon area) have received all that is necessary to become citizens; they now are South Koreans with all the protections of the nation,  but the invisible wall of refugee status is there, which makes it difficult for them to feel at home.  The sister meets regularly with those between 20 and 40 years of age, and has started a group of women to help the refugees build self-confidence, find emotional strength and feel at home in the South.

The women from the North have a strong motherly instinct. No matter how difficult life is they have no thought of abortion. If there is no one to take care of the child, the mother will strap the child to her back and go off to work. On one occasion, going to the center to  report the birth of her child, a woman was greeted with laughter: North Koreans have many babies, they said. She reported that to Sister and wanted to know if it is a sin to have a baby. If the baby comes, the woman said, we accept it. How can we get rid of it, she said with sadness.

The love of the North Koreans for their children is great. Even during the cold months they turn off the heat to save money for the  education of the children. Their desires are few: to have enough to eat, children in school, have a bank card where they can save some money and see it grow, and wait for the day when they will be able to receive and give greetings to those they left behind. The difficult environment of their previous life in the North has toughened them, but their hearts still can be hurt and, unfortunately, often are.

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