In South Korea (the Republic of Korea) the number of the new settlers who are North Korean defectors called ‘seatermin’ amounted to more than 22 thousand in 2011! Let it be said that 0.05 percent of South Koreans are now North Korean immigrants. Their existence, there, begins to be flicker in the darkness.
A heroine of the representative case of it is a champion North Korean boxer, Korean ‘Million Dollar Baby’ Choi Hyun-mi, who defended the WBA (World Boxing Association) featherweight title for five times in 2011. Her glory reflects North Korean defectors can also live and enjoy their own lives at the world’s highest level. Not only do those refugees live in Seoul but also in diverse provinces all over South Korea. The fair idea is that any South Korean could literally make contact with the settler within arm’s reach.
It was an unequivocal rejection that came through a phone call. ‘I am afraid to tell you your request to interview a North Korean defector is banned. It’s no surprise. How did you possibly think that I would give you the “OK” sign? They are fragile people now,’ the person in charge of managing them said. The explanation seemed to be that to “interview” the settler requires careful steps, although an amiable situation allowed us to run into them.
l Alternative Escape
In the 1960s, the earlier primary motive for the escape was a mere yearning for South Korea. As time went by, the affirmation that South Korea had grown much more than North Korea, one of the world’s poorest countries, permeated into the whole upper part of the Korean Peninsula. Thanks to development in media, North Koreans get marvelous information on the external world with CDs, DVDs or distributed leaflets which are highly restricted and unrevealed by the North Korean dictator. Since the 1990s, their escapes from North Korea have become an alternative strong option for North Korean people from being hungry, being punished, and being tired of that life even if it risks one’s life.
ü The recent remarkable trend is that the number of North Korean refugees who settle in South Korea has increased in succession.
According to a well-informed source, it was said that some young adults go to CBNU now. A girl’s imposing voice sounds through the phone. It turns out to be true that a North Korean student actually exist in CBNU! However, she sent a kind of refusal with pity in text messaging later. ‘Sorry, I could not contact with you. Here’s the thing. I have a matter that I recently have to be concerned. I am sorry, very sorry,’ She said. Some others making contact with defectors also haven’t done well. It looks like any kind of formal approach (except private) still gives a burdensome task to North Korean defectors, even those who are well adjusted to the South Korean society.
Gate of Hell
What if the defector is repatriated to North Korea? The answer is clear. ‘No one survives.’ Recently, the North Korean crackdown is getting stronger. The compromise between China and North Korea had accelerated the extradition of the North Korean defectors in China to their North Korean home. Overseas North Korean refugees whose number is estimated to be between ten thousand and one hundred thousand are open to arrest by public security officers in China. The life is Hell; they live on in apprehension of the crackdown and repatriation every day, trying not to go back to North Korea.
ü Even a life like hell is too much for them; they say that life is better than being dragged and dying in North Korea.
In another case, does it matter that some discontent in the settlement support is posed? The Korean government provides support centers with finance for North Korean refugees as Jeollabuk-do and other provinces do. Those refugees in South Korea receive the benefit of official social welfare, and their human rights and their life are guaranteed on it, for they are also the same people.
Secrecy! Only on the secret manner
North Korean defectors are somewhat special. Once they settle in South Korea, they take an adaptation period for several years under the supervision of the government. Most of the process proceeds in secret. Any kind of interview or contact in that time is highly restricted on the concern of telling someone classified information. Who would dare to tell a stranger who they are? As describe above, for that reason, it is complicated to meet face-to-face with a North Korean defector for a report. Thanks to the person in charge, the mission to meet them was almost a success; however, the interview was denied, as we have seen. The fact asserts that the acts involved in supporting the refugee has to be classified. In an extreme case, in China, which is positive with North Korea, the government could require a helper to be banished if it is discovered that he supported a defector. The secrecy is sort of a tolerance to each other.
Within Entire Struggle
There was a presentation by the Chonbuk provincial government about North Korean defector support on January 31st. It is said that the non-traditional consideration for those people as ‘productive contributors’ is required at this stage, in which over 22 thousand of these settlers live in South Korea. Consequently, those support centers’ proposal is to educate them on being confident, equivalent members in the labor market. Their help is an oasis in the desert of the present situation. Therefore, attention to cooperation with involved organizations which common person can participate in help to guide them to find the oasis together.
“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal” - Albert Camus, Author of ‘The Stranger’(1942).
As Camus had said, all people struggle to be in a higher and more comfortable group. The difference between a citizen and a refugee may be that a citizen just takes a few steps forwards. Who knows if a citizen can become a refugee in the given circumstance, either metaphorically or not? Nobody knows.