In the News – Young North Korean Defectors Struggle in the South

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In the News – Young North Korean Defectors Struggle in the South

SEOUL, South Korea — Kim Seong-cheol is a survivor. He left his home in North Korea at the age of 8 for a Dickensian existence, begging on the streets with a pack of boys when famine struck and his parents could not feed him. By his account, he endured several stays in brutal North Korean and Chinese prisons for attempting to cross the border into China.

Kim Kyeong-il, using cellphone, is president of a support group for North Korean-born students at Yonsei University in Seoul.

But when he finally made it to South Korea, and freedom, Mr. Kim faced an obstacle that even his considerable street smarts could not help him overcome. He had placed into a university under a new affirmative action program, but was haunted by the deprivations of his past and quickly slipped behind South Korean classmates who had already made it through years of an extremely competitive education system.

“I just couldn’t shake the memory of hunger from my mind,” said Mr. Kim, 26, who dropped out after just one semester and fell into a deep, alcohol-fueled depression.

Mr. Kim is part of a growing number of defectors who are making their way south — the number has increased sevenfold to 23,000 in the last decade — and posing a growing challenge for South Korea. Attempts at integration, including government-run crash courses on life in the capitalist South, have had mixed results, leaving many North Koreans unable to adapt to South Korea’s high-pressure society or overcome their stereotype as backward country cousins.

The government had hoped that education might close the chasm, offering piecemeal steps over the last decade that evolved into a full-fledged affirmative action program, which gives young North Koreans the chance to bypass grueling entrance exams to enter top universities. Now, even that stopgap measure appears to be failing as large numbers of North Koreans are dropping out, creating new worries that they and other defectors could become part of a permanent underclass.

“These children are simply not equipped for South Korea’s fiercely competitive society,” said Shin Hyo-sook, a specialist in education at the North Korean Refugees Foundation, a newly created government research institute. “They suffer identity issues due to their extreme experiences.” Continue reading

In the News – Three convicted of N. Korea rumor-based stock rigging

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In the News – Three convicted of N. Korea rumor-based stock rigging

SEOUL, June 28 (Yonhap) — Three men who manipulated stock prices by spreading false rumors of a nuclear reactor explosion in North Korea have been sentenced to prison terms, court officials said Thursday.

The rumors, which circulated through an online messenger service, claimed a light-water reactor had exploded in North Korea and was leaking radioactive materials that could reach the South.

On Jan 6, the rumors hit South Korean stock markets, causing the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index to fall 1.11 percent, after shedding as much as 2.12 percent at one point. The local currency depreciated 0.88 percent against the greenback.

A 28-year-old surnamed Woo was sentenced to two years in prison, according to officials at the Seoul Central District Court.

The court sentenced Woo’s two accomplices to one and a half years and one year in prison, suspended for three years.

The three pocketed a total of 29 million won (US$17,323) from the difference in stock prices triggered by their schemes, the officials said.

The trio was also involved in a separate stock manipulation in February that stemmed from false rumors of a vaccine development at a pharmaceutical company.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – NSA Bringing in Midnight Disappearance

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In the News – NSA Bringing in Midnight Disappearance

Since the National Security Agency (NSA) took over border security from the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces last month, measures taken against the families of defectors have been stepped up, Daily NK has learned. This even includes the kind of midnight arrests and disappearances that used to characterize the way political criminals and their families were taken away to prison camps.

Finding that people are disappearing overnight is causing a lot of nervousness for others living in areas adjoining the border, according to a Daily NK source from North Hamkyung Province.

“Right now the atmosphere along the border has gotten pretty brutal,” the source told Daily NK yesterday. “Cases are happening where families of defectors or people who have ever been found making international phone calls just disappear without a trace.”

“Last week in Hoiryeong, three families categorized as ‘household of a defector’ by the NSA were dragged off somewhere one night,” the source said. “And a few weeks ago a foreign currency earner who had called China was dragged off by the NSA and hasn’t been heard from since.

Mostly in the past, if a person were caught making an international call by the NSA or signal detection team in the border area, he or she could avoid serious censure as long as 300,000 to 1,000,000 won in fines was paid. Failing that, punishment usually only meant time in prison. If a defector were arrested, he or she could expect a public trial during which a fine or spell in detention would be handed down

However, the new measures are characteristic of the NSA, which has always focused on instilling fear in the target population.

The source said, “People are feeling really anxious, thinking that they can’t even remonstrate now or risk being taken away one day. Whole defector families can’t even sleep when the sound of an engine comes in the night.”

 

Original article can be found here.