[Letters] Please call us ‘defected compatriots’

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[Letters] Please call us ‘defected compatriots’

I have come from North Korea, and various titles to describe people like myself, such as saeteomin (newly settled person), defector and North Korean escapee give me mixed feelings. We came to South Korea not just because we were starving or struggling. We risked our lives and took our journey in search for freedom as a protest against the dictatorship and oppression of Pyongyang. I appreciated the column by Professor Park Sang-bong on the June 16 issue of the JoongAng Ilbo. He proposed that we should be referred to as North Korean defectors rather than saeteomin. This latter term was first coined during the Roh Moo-hyun administration. However, it evokes a feeling of humiliation, like we are migrant aliens looking for a new living.

Korea was not divided because the people wished for the division. The greedy Stalinists caused the pain and suffering. Considering the tragic history, how can we be treated as foreigners? I personally feel that the labels of defector or escapee fail to account for our kinship and blood ties. Saeteomin, defector and escapee sound like titles referring to foreigners. In the 5,000 years of history of Korea, the period of division is only a short moment. Rather than using awkward expressions to refer to the people from the North, I would like to be labeled with an emphasis on brotherhood.

I propose we be called “defected compatriots.” Compatriots remind us that we are from the same root. The ethnic Koreans in China were born and raised in China and came to Korea to make money. Yet we are all Korean people sharing the lineage.

*A North Korean defector
By Lee Ju-seong
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