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Most defectors do not want to return to N. Korea

Posted March. 19, 2014 00:01,   


“We feel nostalgia but there will be no return.”

For North Korean defectors, North Korea is not a hometown to go back to. Among the 60 people that the joint investigation team of the Dong-A Ilbo and the Asahi Shimbun interviewed, only 13 people say that they will “go back to North Korea after reunification.”

Oh Yoo-jeong, a 41-year-old North Korean defector, said, “My mother (in North Korea) had been investigated by the State Political Security Department three times since I defected to the South. Before the fourth investigation in January last year, she took her own life because she had been advised she wouldn’t be freed this time.” Oh asserted that she would never go back to North Korea. However, it seems that cutting off all the affects for the country that they once lived is tough.

○ South Korea from the perspective of North Korean defectors

Many North Korean defectors desire to share their experiences of capitalism with people in their hometowns in North Korean. Yoon Ah-yeong, a 32-year-old North Korean defector who has settled in South Korea over 10 years, said, “I want to play the role of bridge between North Koreans and South Koreans to help them harmonize with each other because I have lived in both sides. If there’s a chance, I want to be a councilor to help North Korean people understand the culture of South Korea.” Lee Seong-sim, a 64-year-old North Korean defector who worked as a propaganda instructor in North Korea, suggested making a license for advertising South Korea for North Korean defectors.

Some defectors from North Korea complain of a fatigue induced by free competition under capitalism. Lee Sang-hyeon, a 23-year-old North Korean defector preparing for college entrance, said that he wasn’t sure if he could raise a family. “I don’t have confidence to have my children economically prosperous. If I were in North Korea, I wouldn’t be able to make a living as I am here (in South Korea), but I would be able to provide for a family,” he added.

Others expressed disappointments about the so-called North Korean elites escaped from the North make easy money even in the South. While most people who left the North due to hunger are unskilled workers and receive only small wages, the privileged get paid for selling high-level information or making appearance on TV for the reason of reporting the actual life of high-ranking officials in North Korea.

○ Education, the common issue for parents

What concerns parents the most is not different in the North and the South. Seo Soo-yeon, a 45-year-old North Korean defector, has a 14-year-old daughter. She confessed that even though her daughter wanted to take hakwon (private education institutes in Korea) lessons for Korean language, English and Math to keep up with other students in school, she couldn’t afford the fee because she barely makes ends meet after paying a monthly rent.

Some parents change jobs to find a day care center. Lee Seong-jae who is married to a woman from North Korea has been preparing for a test to enter a state-owned corporation for one year because people can stick to defined work hours relatively easily in state-owned companies. Since his wife usually works late at a consulting firm, he should be the one who takes care of the two kids in the evening.

Teenaged North Korean defectors or those in their 20s had received education strictly focused on the “Juche” ideology in North Korea, so they suffer lack of common sense. “No matter how privileged college you are from in the North, you considered ignorant in the South,” said Kim Eun-sol, a 19-year-old North Korean defector. “Adolescents living here alone without parents will miss parents’ love. It would be great if there a program to kindly teach them about their overall life (in the South).”

* Names of people referred to in the article are false to protect their identities.