[Letter to the editor]How to welcome Northern brethrenWhen it comes to issues concerning the relationship between South Korea and the North, people all talk about how we are one ethnic family and share the same history. We are, actually. And we are so proud of it and always express our wish for unification. Ask anyone on the street. From children to the elderly, all will say their wish is for unification of the two Koreas. We all want that to happen, and it should.
However, whenever I hear about the attitude of South Koreans toward people who escaped from the North in search of freedom, I doubt whether we really want it to happen.
A story about North Koreans escaping to the South would have been used as propaganda a few decades ago. Now, as there are thousands of North Koreans living in the South, the issue is not only something that is so special, but an issue that is part of our everyday life.
More and more people are risking their lives to find freedom and opportunity in the South. Yet, our government is so ignorant of the matter. Why should the refugees go to the United States or the European Union? Shouldn’t we be the one to accept all the refugees?
As stated in our Constitution, the territory of the Republic of Korea comprises the Korean Peninsula as well as its islands. This means the people living in the North are our own people. We have a responsibility to take care of them. Yet, we hear news about North Koreans escaping to a third nation, committing suicide or suffering in poverty in South Korea.
Our government is not providing much financial and social aid to them. We must compensate for their courage to escape. Moving to a liberal-capitalistic state from the Kims’ kingdom is too much for them to handle by themselves.
However, South Korean citizens as well as the government are not offering much help to them. I even heard of a North Korean teenager here saying, “I would rather go back to the North!”
We should change our attitude. Unification is not just about sending assistance to the North and showing it to the media. It is not just about government executives holding hands and smiling on the front pages of newspapers. Of course, it is not just about setting up stone monuments inscribed with hopes for unification.
It all begins with us. The government’s realistic support as well as our attention can make the refugees feel home in South Korea. This is the true step toward unification. I demand that we expand our support to North Koreans coming to the South
Kang Yoon-Seung, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies