Tuesday, January 6, 2015
North Korean Refugees in the South
A discussion with refugees from the North and knowledgeable persons of the current situation of North Korea was transcribed for an article in the Peace Weekly in a question and answer form.
Q. How is the situation in North Korea at present?
A. With the advent of Kim Jong-un life has become more difficult; not because of problems in not having enough to eat. The ones leaving the North are looking for a better life. In the past if unification were to come they wanted it with the leadership of the North, today there is a desire for unification and they don't care who takes the lead, they want unification for a better life.
A. Living conditions in North Korean are much better than in the past. Even the poor can have three meals a day even though it may be corn gruel. However the difference between those who have and those that don't is getting larger, and the poor are having more difficulty.
Q. South Korea is sending food to the North. Is this getting into the hands of the poor people?
A. The bishops have sent food to the North and the priest responsible for the support that is given has been on the spot and certifies that it is delivered to the people, and not sent to other countries for income. The rice we send is going to feed the North Koreans.
Q.The difference in understanding between the North and South is great. Among the citizens in the South there is dissent with helping the North. If we don't solve this problem, even if we have unification the future looks dark.
A. This is a serious issue. There is little effort being made to improve the situation. The Church should be doing something about the rift between the North and South, and foster understanding but the polarization within the South is also the same polarization within the Church. The issue with the North should not be one between the conservatives and progressives. We have to get rid of this ideology. We need to learn about the North and understand them.
Q. What do we need to do to make it easy for the refugees from the North to feel at home in the South?
A. One of those who left the North and for 6 months traveled to Laos, Myanmar and Thailand before finally arriving in South Korea answers: "The help given by the South Korean Government is greatly appreciated. There are many who find it difficult to adapt to the intense life here in the South. Support of the government, and the warm welcome of the churches is a great help.