Second Hanawon center as defectors increase
To accommodate the growing number of North Korean defectors, South Korea has decided to build another center to help them adjust to life in their new home.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held for a second Hanawon yesterday in Hwacheon, Gangwon Province, ironically just a few kilometers from the military demarcation line that separates the Koreas.
Hwacheon was selected from 24 possible sites because its community was most accepting of the center.
Roughly 200 people gathered in the small farming village of Gancheok-ri for the groundbreaking, including high-ranking officials from the Ministry of Unification, local officials and townspeople.
The visitors were serenaded by a team of young students, all defectors, on ocarinas, which was followed by a dance performance.
The second Hanawon, set to be completed at the end of 2012, has a budget of about 11.8 billion won ($11.1 million) and is expected to house up to 500 defectors.
The first Hanawon was built in July 1999 with a capacity of 150, a small fraction of the 21,788 North Korean defectors that have entered South Korea as of June 30 this year.
The first Hanawon, which is in Anseong, Gyeonggi, was expanded twice in 2003 and 2008, and can now accommodate up to 600 people. There are also two branch offices in Anseong and Yangju, housing 150 in total.
Defectors who enter Hanawon after being screened by South Korean intelligence authorities receive three months training to help them ease into their new lives as South Koreans. They receive instruction on how to use credit cards, public transportation and women are taught how to put on makeup. Defectors can also receive health treatment, such as dental care, which most are in need of. Counseling is also available. The five therapists at Hanawon give up to 10,000 counseling sessions a year, according to a Hanawon official.
The second Hanawon will provide the same services and a little more, said Hanawon director, Yoon Mi-ryang. She said its classes will be modified to meet the needs of North Koreans who are more highly educated than others.
“It’s more than just building a building,” said Unification Minister Hyun In-taek during a speech at the event yesterday. “We are working on a realistic plan for a future where we will be living together with these people [North Koreans].
“We are now at a point where you can turn your head on the street and see a defector,” he said, “but they are still in need of much support.”
Officials at Hanawon said the number of defectors has surged considerably in the past several years and more North Koreans now come to the South with their entire families. This is because defection routes are well known, including easier routes that help them get to South Korea quickly through other countries.
According to Hanawon, 2,927 defectors arrived in South Korea in 2009 and 2,376 in 2010. Last year saw a slight decrease as China’s guarding of the North Korea-China border tightened. This year, the government expects more than 3,000 will make it to the South; there were 1,428 defectors who entered during the first half of this year.
“I’m supposed to feel bad about the relatives I left behind,” said one female defector identified as Lee. “But I’m just so happy to be here and I will try my best to succeed.”
By Christine Kim [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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통일부는 제2 하나원이 완공되면 입국한 탈북자의 기초 정착교육(3개월)은 물론, 이미 정착한 탈북자에 대한 재교육 시설로 활용할 예정이다.
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