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[Opinion] No Paradise for Defectors

Posted September. 20, 2006 06:07,   


“We were fully confident while in North Korea that as long as the U.S. leaves the South, the North could just sweep away the South Chosŏn [South Korean] puppet army away with its own power.” Yesterday, in front of the building of the Ministry of National Defense, North Korean defectors who were former soldiers held a press conference opposing the takeover of the operational control from the U.S. They called the takeover plan “an omen for the demise of Korea,” adding, “If this goes unchecked, it will only be a matter of time before the South becomes like the current North.” The people who left the North risking their lives for freedom even said so, which shows how unstable the status quo of the South’s security seems to them.

Former North Korean Workers Party Secretary Hwang Jang-yeop often criticized such complacent attitude of South Korea in terms of security after defecting from the North in 1997. On September 4, he even argued, “It is definitely treacherous that some people act against the R.O.K-U.S. alliance by linking the operational control issue to autonomy.” Maybe the Korean government would find it uncomfortable to hear that, but he probably had no personal greed to have made such a remark. His comments up to now reveal that truth. He is also one of those people viewing the current security circumstance of the South as being under a threat.

According to the Inspection and Investigation of State Affairs Conducted by the National Assembly disclosed last year by the lawmaker Chung Moon-hun of the Grand National Party, 38 percent of the North Korean defectors wanted to live in another country besides South Korea. The education institute for North Korean defectors, Hanawon, conducted a survey from last March to July on 275 discharged people, asking their preference for a country to settle in. It showed 56 percent said South Korea (153), 22 percent said China (61), nine percent said the U.S. (25), four percent chose Japan (10), and three percent wanted North Korea (9). This shows that South Korea is no longer “a paradise” for North Korean defectors. This is also reaffirmed by the fact that increasing numbers of North Korean defectors are trying to live in exile in the U.S. instead of South Korea.

Many of those who defected from the North to the South during the Korean War have succeeded in the South. True, they more than doubled their efforts in their work than others, but basically free democracy and market economy of the South enabled them to enjoy their “Korean Dream.” It is thus so regrettable that even North Korean defectors are concerned about the South’s future amid such instabilities.

Han Ki-heung, Editorial Writer, eligius@donga.com