Home > Migrants, North Korean Human Rights, Trafficking of Persons, Women's Rights > Research Stress Urgent Need for Resettlement Program

Research Stress Urgent Need for Resettlement Program

Moonhee Kim

Being exhausted both physically and mentally, because of the escape from North Korea, hanging between life and death.

“The hardest part of the escape from the North is the fact that human rights as a woman are not guaranteed at all. Although we don’t want to sleep with strangers, there is no choice for us. We have to do what the others ask to achieve the goal, which is entering South Korea. When cops are patrolling, we habitually used to look for the emergency exit first. I’m still tormented by feelings of insecurity,” One of the female North Korean defectors, Ms. Jin, 27, said.

It was found in the ‘Research on The Female North Korean Defectors’ Trauma and proper ways for the Resettlement Program’, conducted by the Ministry of Unification, that most female North Korean defectors suffer from severe trauma (a very severe shock or very upsetting experience, which may cause psychological damage), caused by sexploitation and human trafficking during the process of escape from the North. Thus, it shows that an emotional treatment for these women is urgent.

Choi, Hyun-Sil, a researcher at the Center for Research on Women, Busan National University, pointed out those most female North Korean defectors are too exhausted to recuperate since the escape process takes a great toll on their physical and mental energy. Consequently, the trauma that they had to go through during the defect affects them in a very negative way when they need to control themselves rationally.

This research was held by in-depth interviews with seven female North Korean defectors. Ms. Lee, 32, who came to South Korea through Jilin, China and Cambodia, explains the fear that she went through during the process of the escape. When she escaped to Cambodia, she had to rush into a river which was filled with alligators. She said, “I thought it would be better for me to be eaten by alligators than getting caught by the cops and dying in vain.” She also added that only six people among ten who jumped into the river could come to South Korea alive.

There was testimony of distrust amongst others caused by human trafficking and sexploitation by ethnic Koreans living in China. Ms. Jin said, “I was sold at a giveaway price to get married to the Han who lived in the country side. My husband even followed me to the washroom. If I got caught trying to run away, he beat me till I was half dead.” The other female North Korean defector, Lee mentioned that she is still terrified when she meets a guy in South Korea, doubting him if he is going to use her or if he has another sexual prejudice on female North Korean defectors.

Researcher Choi analyzed that those women sincerely want to forget the bad memories of sexploitation and of having a guilty conscience of the reason why they were so vulnerable to trafficking. They also avoid talking about themselves and stories related to gender.

Therefore, according to researcher Choi, preparing for a professional program to alleviate the female North Korean defectors’ trauma is vital and urgent in South Korea. Although North Korean defectors currently receive psychological counseling at Hanawon, the government resettlement center for North Korean defectors in South Korea, the counseling is limited to a simple psychology test. And it doesn’t help alleviate the pain and trauma resulted from the process of the escape from the North.

Researcher Choi suggests that increasing the number of female police officers would be helpful for the female North Korean defectors because they get the necessary information from the local police officers when they adapt themselves in South Korea. Thus, the education to change South Korean’s perception on North Korean defectors is also raised by Choi.

Choi insists that proper education for the awareness about North Korean defectors is necessary for those starting from the young generation to those in their sixties and seventies, who are classified as the anticommunism generation. Choi explains one testimony from the female North Korean defector who had an experience with one senior in the anticommunism generation. When the senior met a female North Korean defector, the senior tried to check if she had horn on her head or not. Which became popular belief as during that generation there were many anti-communist propaganda taught in schools.

 

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