Friday, April 1, 2011

Foreigners In Their Own Country

Many of the refugees from the North who are now living in South Korea face many hardships and not the least is being a foreigner in a country that was once united.Those who have defected have done so for many different reasons and economic reasons,for many, may be the most important. They usually cross the border into China hoping to go to a third country because China is a close ally of North Korea, and does not grant refugee status and considers them illegal migrants.

This situation is such that those who arrive in China are exploited by the Chinese and often  sold into forced marriages. Life is difficult and no matter how long they remain in China they are not recognized as citizens and their  children can't be registered; they always fear that they will be sent back to North Korea. 

The religious sister working with the refugees in Incheon mentions a young girl who because of a deformed ear received  medical help to correct the abnormality.The mother was married to a Chinese and finally made it to South Korea. The operation  made the child's  ear almost normal. She can now wear glasses and is no longer open to ridicule by the children.

The sister mentions that these children and the mothers who have lived in China for many years speak Chinese but because of their illegal situation in China live in fear of being  picked up by the authorities. Their  mental state is very unstable. In the South  the treatment the children receive from their classmates is such that they hide their North Korean background except to very close  friends to whom they will say they are foreign born Koreans or  lived in China.

In  the 1990s they went through a very difficult period of hunger, which stunted  their growth and  gave them weak bodies.This  makes it hard to concentrate in school; many can't read the Korean script. Since the parents were trying to make a living they often lived with their relatives which did not make for a warm family relationship.

Each new semester, the sister explains,  when the children have to go to school, they become sick.   Everything is new to them, they find the society uninviting. Life in the South is not easy. They can't hide their  accents. The children because of their hard lives, are at the bottom of the class, have great difficulty with English, which the Koreans start learning in grammar school. Children can be cruel and when they are treated with contempt it is no wonder the refugee dropouts are many times over the normal.

The sister is optimistic about their future, but it is a problem for the country to find ways to make these new  members in the free society of the South one that will be the harbinger  of what the future unification will be. At present, the difficulties are numerous.

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