Refugees from North Korea who are presently in the South, most, did not have South Korea as their goal on leaving the North. A columnist in the Catholic Times on the refugees gives some ideas on the problems the newly arrived North Koreans face in the South. Except for a few who have fled the North with their families, most have gone in search of food. They arrive in China, and not welcomed, opt to go to South Korea. They are not immigrants but refugees. Which makes the transition to life in the South difficult.
First, adapting to the South required leaving their family in the North, and they have a feeling of guilt. They fear they will never see them again, and their difficult circumstances in the North make them conscious on how they need to help them financially.
Health problems are always present. They do not have any abnormalities but visits to the dentist, gynecologists, and internal medicine problems are frequent: headaches, indigestion, many bodily complaints. The difficulties in leaving the North, the stress they have experienced from the efforts to come to the South and the problems they now face all makes for great pressure.
The third difficulty is trying to get the necessary qualifications to find work or to feel comfortable in the workplace. What they learned in the North is not much help in the South. Once they are working, the different ways of thinking, the hard work, the cultural differences are all obstacles in feeling at home. They are familiar with the language, but this does not make the settling down in the South similar to a person moving from one part of Korea to another. The language they use is immediately recognized as from the North and the ways of expressing themselves poses problems in being understood.
35 percent of the refugees: the old, children, the sick and those who have recently arrived receive basic government financial aid. The other 65 percent have jobs where the income is what the poorest of our society are making.They are making more than they would in the North, but in the South are living in poverty.
Fifthly, trying to adapt to a more advanced society than they were accustomed to in the North makes demands. English words are often used in the South, computers and the Internet are prevalent. Politics, finances, society, the culture are all strange. Transportation, the different government offices, shopping, marriage, dating and just relating in a different society and feeling at home is not easy.
Despite all the problems, the columnist who works with the North Koreans, concludes her article mentioning that the numbers of those who are succeeding in their efforts to better their lives in the South continues to increase.