No need for specific terms for us (국문)

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No need for specific terms for us (국문)

“New Dreamers” was chosen as the winner in the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s contest held to create a new name for North Korean defectors. The winning name was selected as it represented North Korean defectors’ hope for new dreams.

The city quietly posted the selection online and did not make a press release, unlike in the beginning of the contest. Initially, there was a plan to request that the Ministry of Unification use the new term, but did not. A Seoul Metropolitan Government official said that changing the term requires a revision of the law and needs to be discussed with the ministry. In order not to cause confusion, the contest was concluded internally.

North Korean defectors learned about the results of the contest and are glad that the choice was not publicized. Park Young-cheol from Musan, North Hamkyong, said there would have been quite a show of resistance if the winning name was made public, adding that a new term should be accepted by the defector community no matter how good the intentions are.

Others question why a new term was needed in the first place. A college student from Hyesan, Yanggang province surnamed Song said that most North Korean defectors live quietly and want to be citizens of the Republic of Korea. He said that as more terms are coined to refer to the defectors, it leads to a greater burden and discrimination.

It was 1962 when a legal term referring to the people who escaped North Korea and defected to South Korea first appeared. They were called “defectors to the South.” In 1978, they were called “defecting warriors.” They were then called “defecting North Korean brothers” in the early ’90s and then “defecting North Korean residents” in 1997. In 2005, the Ministry of Unification coined a new term “Saeteomin,” meaning “new settlers.”

However, some North Korean defectors opposed the term, and the government has refrained from using it since 2008. As a result, the community is, rather confusingly, referred to by many different names.

A fifty-one-year-old surnamed Choi from Yeongcheon, North Pyongan, says that it is unfair to praise defectors as “the unification that came early.”

Director Ahn Chan-il of the World Institute for North Korea Studies, who is the first North Korean defector to obtain a Ph.D., said that a term created out of compassion and sympathy could create stigma as a third-class citizen to the defectors.

If a term is needed for administrative purposes, they should be described as North Korean defectors or escapees. There is no reason to make a fuss about adding a special name that defectors don’t welcome. Anyone can have a new dream regardless of where they are from.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 18, Page 33

*The author is a national news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.


‘새꿈주민’. 서울시가 4월 20일부터 4주간 실시한 ‘북한이탈주민 대체명 공모’에서 최우수작으로 뽑힌 용어다. ‘새로운 꿈을 키우기 위해 탈북한 이들을 잘 상징한다’는 게 선정 이유였다.
그런데 서울시는 선정 결과를 온라인을 통해 조용히 공개했다. 공모 시작 때와 달리 언론에 알리지 않았다. 최우수작으로 선정되는 용어를 통일부에 새 명칭으로 삼아 달라고 요청할 계획이라고 했는데 그렇게 하지도 않았다. 서울시 관계자는 “용어 변경은 법을 개정해야 하는 일이라서 소관 부처인 통일부와의 협의가 필요하다. 업무 혼선을 초래하지 않기 위해 내부적으로 종결했다”고 말했다.
이런 일을 전해 들은 북한이탈주민들은 “차라리 발표하지 않은 게 다행”이라는 반응을 보였다. 함북 무산 출신인 박영철(35)씨는 “최우수작 용어가 발표됐다면 반발이 꽤 있었을 것이다. 아무리 좋은 용어라도 당사자가 듣기 편해야 한다”고 말했다. “왜 굳이 새로운 용어가 필요한 것이냐”는 지적도 있었다. 양강도 혜산에서 온 대학생 송모(23)씨는 “나처럼 조용히 살아가는 대부분의 북한이탈주민들은 대한민국 국민으로 떳떳하게 살고 싶어한다. 우리를 지칭하는 용어가 늘어날수록 차별과 부담만 는다”고 토로했다.
북한을 탈출해 한국으로 온 이들을 부르는 법적 용어가 처음 등장한 것은 1962년이다. ‘월남귀순자’라고 불렀다. 78년에는 ‘귀순용사’가 됐다. 90년대 초부터는 ‘귀순북한동포’라고 했고, 97년에 ‘북한이탈주민’이 됐다. 2005년에는 통일부가 ‘새터민’이란 새 용어를 만들었다. 하지만 일부 북한이탈주민의 반대로 2008년부터 정부가 사용을 자제하고 있다. 이런 탓에 실생활에선 탈북자·탈북민·탈북인·새터민·북한이탈주민이 혼용된다.
평북 영천 출신인 최모(51)씨는 “우리를 ‘먼저 온 통일’이라고 치켜세우면서 한편으론 특정 용어로 지칭하는 건 서운하다”고 말했다. ‘탈북인 박사 1호’인 안찬일 세계북한연구센터 소장은 “위로하고 동정하는 마음에서 나온 단어가 오히려 북한이탈주민들에게 ‘3등 국민’ 낙인이 될 수 있다”고 걱정했다.
행정 편의로 뭔가 용어가 필요하다면 북한이탈주민이나 탈북인 정도로 표현하면 된다. 당사자들이 반기지도 않는, 유별난 이름을 하나 추가하려고 호들갑 떨 이유는 없다. 새 꿈은 출신 지역과 상관 없이 누구나 품을 수 있다.
하준호 사회2부 기자
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