Posted December. 23, 2004 22:57,
From next year, the screening process for entering Korea will be strengthened to prevent the entry of fake North Korean defectors, North Korean asylum seekers with criminal records, and refugees from the North who have been living in China for a long period of time (over 10 years).
In addition, strict crackdown and punishment will be enforced against former North Korean defectors-turned-brokers who encourage so-called planned defections, and the amount of financial support for North Korean defector settlement is expected to decrease significantly from the current 28 million won to 10 million won.
Unification Deputy Minister Lee Bong-jo said on the morning of December 23 at the briefing room of the central government complex in Seoul that the above-mentioned reform measures for North Korean defection policy will be effective from New Years Day. The government has recently informed the Chinese government of the reform measures and has already reportedly banned dozens of North Korean defection brokers from leaving the country.
Deputy Minister Lee said in the briefing, There is no change in the governments principle of full embracement of North Koreans seeking asylum in South Korea, but given the greatly improved food supply in the North compared to the late 1990s, planned defection must be one of the factors in the continuous rise of North Korean refugees taking refuge in the South.
According to the Unification Ministry, as of December 23, the number of North Korean defectors that entered the South stands at 1,866, a 45.7 percent rise from last years 1,281. The government estimates that among those 1,866, some 83 percent have entered South Korea by way of brokers. The fee paid to brokers amounts to an estimated four million won on average, and around six billion won found its way to brokers this year alone, an official of the ministry said.
However, North Korean defection support groups and defectors living in the South are voicing strong opposition to these measures of the government, saying This is tantamount to the government declaring that it cannot accept North Korean asylum seekers any longer, mindful of the Norths and Chinas reaction.
Head of Duri Hana Mission, a support group for North Korean refugees, Chun Gi-won criticized, The government is overlooking the basic fact that the North Korean asylum seekers risked their lives to cross borders and climb the wall of the Korean Embassy in China not for money, but for freedom.