North Korean Defectors and Diversification

When I volunteered at Hangyeore during the summer internship with the Ministry of Unification, I went into the program knowing very little of the history and the political situation revolving around the people who defected from North Korea other than the reality that the difficulty of leaving North Korea to find asylum in South Korea often required the defectors to spend a long time in third countries. However, as I spent time in the school without enough understanding of the Korean language to find out more about the children or other people like them who had defected from North Korea, I felt that it was important to examine further the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics and motives for escape from North Korea. In this article, I intend to share what results I found because I am sure there are many others like me who have only a general idea about the situation with defectors but would like to find out more details to better understand how to address the economic, social, and psychological adjustment of the defector community in South Korea. Continue reading

A Hundred-Year Journey of the Family

I had the privilege of working with Professor Kim Duk-chul, the director and producer of A Hundred-Year Journey of the Family, a documentary that appeared in the line-up for documentaries in the sixteenth annual Busan International Film Festival (2011 October 6-14). Professor Kim Duk-chul’s documentary aired on both the 8th of October and the 10th of October. Although I had viewed the documentary while Professor Kim Duk-chul was still editing the film, I was fortunately able to participate in the official first screening of the documentary at the Busan International Film Festival.

The documentary was filmed in Japan over a period of ten years and explored the history and identity-formation of the Korean minority community in Japan. The documentary revealed how the division of the Korean peninsula has not only impacted the lives of people living in North and South Korea, but has also created long-term effects on the Korean communities outside of the boundaries of the peninsula, such as that in Japan. Professor Kim Duk-Chul’s documentary gives the viewer a glimpse of the division of the Korean minority in Japan, the Zainichi Korean community, upon the end of the Korean War and the importance of unification to the communities there as well as to families in North and South Korea. Continue reading

North Korean Refugees in the United Kingdom

Big Ben (Photo Credit: Mohammad Albeloushi/Flickr)

With their number increasing, many North Korean refugees are spreading all over the world after escaping through China and Southeast Asian countries. Many of them, about 25,000 as of 2010, settle in South Korea, where the government supports them throughout their first few years in their new homes. About 100,000 to 200,000 North Koreans are estimated to be in China, waiting to go to a different country, as they will be repatriated to North Korea if the Chinese police arrest them. They also go to different parts of the world: they go to the United States, other Asian countries, and Western Europe. Continue reading

Researching Refugees

North Korean Asylum Seekers (Photo Credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

This summer, when I wasn’t driving around in a minivan or eating dinner or talking about Gossip Girl with North Korean refugees, I dabbled in some online research on foreign policy.

This was on assignment from the Ministry of Unification’s Resettlement Support Division, the department that looks after North Korean refugees during their integration process. I looked into Chinese, South Korean, US, Australian, UK, and Canadian policies with respect to North Korean refugees—those are at least the countries with plentiful information available in English about their policies, and generally are also the ones with the greatest influx of North Korean refugees. Continue reading

March for Peace and Unification

Team 2 on the March for Peace and Unification

The author's team on the 2011 March for Peace and Unification (photo credit Chan-yong Park)

I traveled the DMZ for one week this summer with five hundred middle school, high school, and college students. We were on a March for Peace and Unification. I think the title can be a bit misleading, so I will clarify.

The “march” was actually more like a tour. We walked, but only for short durations—partway up a mountain, say, or partway down a defunct North Korean infiltration tunnel. I was relieved to discover that we would neither be in step nor carry signs, and that we wouldn’t have to try to knock on doors or anything to persuade people to support unification. I didn’t think that would work.

The march was run by the Institute for Unification Education, with the goal of getting young people to think about unification issues (and, ideally, to support eventual unification), and we were the target audience. Continue reading

Unification minister pledges to start filling fund for Koreas’ reunification

NEW YORK, Nov. 4 (Yonhap) — Seoul’s top policymaker on North Korea pledged Friday to start filling a fund aimed at preparing for reunification with the North, calling on the South Korean people to also take part. Continue reading