SEOUL, Nov. 28 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea on Sunday unveiled a set of measures to better support North Korean defectors, including ways to help them find work in the public sector, as their total number here has surpassed the 30,000 mark.
The Ministry of Unification announced a seven-point plan to help defectors better integrate into South Korean society as many have struggled to cope with their new lives here after escaping the repressive regime in the face of long-standing prejudice against them.
The ministry said that the plan centers on creating jobs for defectors in central and provincial governments, and public firms, and strengthening the welfare system, such as a hike in resettlement funds.
It also plans to allow incoming defectors to receive “tailored” counseling designed to get them to set long-term life plans when they undergo a three-month resettlement program at a facility named Hanawon. Education programs for young defectors and job training will be strengthened, it added.
The move comes as the number of North Koreans entering the country topped 30,000 on Nov. 11 with the total reaching 30,021 as of Monday.
The number of North Koreans escaping to the South hit an all-time high of 2,914 in 2009. The pace of annual growth had slowed since 2011 as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered tighter border control, according to Seoul’s unification ministry.
But this year the pace has picked up again with even North Korean elites, including diplomats, abandoning the repressive country to seek freedom in the South.
A case in point is Thae Yong-ho, a former minister at the North’s embassy in London, who defected to South Korea with his family in late July. He has become one of the highest-ranking North Korean officials to escape to the South.
The government earlier said that the reasons for defections markedly changed as a growing number of North Koreans have fled the North for noneconomic reasons since 2000. More and more defectors have cited aspirations for freedom and dissatisfaction with Pyongyang and tighter surveillance as the reasons they decided to leave their homeland.
The portion of such escapees shot up to 87.8 percent in the 2014-2016 period, compared with 33.3 percent tallied in the years before 2001.
The ministry said that a rise in “immigration-style” defections seems to be affected by the fact that more North Koreans are coming into contact with South Korean culture and information.
The government said the new support measures are being unveiled to take into account the changing trend of defections and meet their needs so they can resettle successfully in the South.
It said previously, Seoul focused on providing protection to defectors and helping them stand on their own feet, which did help boost the overall employment rate for defectors.
But as such policies fell short of raising their quality of life, the government said it has decided to come up with measures to promote their “social integration” into society.