Companies need to help North Korean defectors

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Companies need to help North Korean defectors

I run a midsize uniform-manufacturing business, and since last year, I have been offering school uniforms to North Korean defectors.

Young people from the North are considerably smaller than average middle and high school students in Korea. When they risked their lives escaping from the North and staying in a third country for an extended period, they were seriously undernourished. I couldn’t forget their happy faces when they received the uniforms that fit their figures; they had worn hand-me-downs that were too big for them.

A student from the school for North Korean defectors I sponsor went back to North Korea out of loneliness and financial difficulties. In fact, a considerable number of the young defectors struggle to settle down in the South due to prejudice and an inadequate social system. They have difficulties participating in systematic education as teachers often lack understanding of their situations. They tend to have a hard time mingling with their Korean peers because they grew up in a different cultural, social and educational environment. They are also vulnerable to bullying when tension arises between Seoul and Pyongyang. Many defectors move to alternative programs or drop out as a result.

There are more than 25,000 defectors living in Korea today. About 25 percent are aged between 9 and 24. In order to help them become integrated into Korean society, we need to improve social awareness for the defectors, and the government should provide sensitive assistance.

It will take a long time to attain awareness and implement government policy, and if companies can offer social programs for North Korean defectors, they should receive substantial benefits and social awareness will be enhanced.

By Oh Hyun-taek, President of School Looks



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