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Research Stress Urgent Need for Resettlement Program

March 4, 2011 Leave a comment

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.

 

Multicultural families to benefit from 2011 Foreign Policy Action Plan

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Sangmin Lee

Starting this year, marriage migrants who have not yet attained Korean citizenship can also benefit from basic livelihood security programs in South Korea.

The Ministry of Justice announced the “2011 Foreign Policy Action Plan” through a state panel on policies for foreign residents, presided over by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik on January 14.

Through rapid globalization there has been an increase in migration of people all over the world. The effects of this phenonmen could be felt in Korea as interracial marriage has also increased. In the meeting, the government made a decision to provide marriage migrants that do not have Korean citizenship the same legal protection and welfare benefits as Korean nationals. The government will support underprivileged migrants living on minimum wage raising children of Korean nationality with the cost of living, housing benefits, education, childbirth, funeral costs and medical welfare. It was also decided by the government to expand “social care” for vulnerable groups of foreigners such as those with disabilities.

In addition, in order for interracial couples to maintain a healthy marriage, the government will mandate Koreans who are seeking marriage to foreigners complete a pre-marriage education program intended to deepen understanding of their foreign spouses’ culture.

The panel also allocated the budget for the “social integration” program designed to aid underprivileged migrants and helps their settlement, especially those struggling with various hardships caused by cultural and linguistic differences.

In conjunction with the multicultural policy, a government official pointed out that there is a will, but lacks a clear control tower to proceed on its own. Accordingly, there is criticism on the effectiveness of the administration’s policy in comparison to the increased budget earmarked for the area.

The program also implements a fingerprint verification system which will fully go into effect July 1, in order to stem the flow of the illegal entrants using forged passports and to collect identity information for criminal investigations. However, civil groups regard this implementation as controversial. Most countries in the world have not introduced this system, except the United States and Japan. Foreigners could possibly feel uncomfortable to be regarded as a potential criminal. Moreover, there has yet to define a standard in the case taking fingerprints are refused.

“The number of foreigners staying in Korea exceeded 1. 25 million as of 2010, accounting for 2.5 percent of the entire population,” Prime Minister Kim said in a statement, “Given that the number will keep increasing, we should set up comprehensive and systematic policies to deal with the increase.”

This new foreign policy shows a step forward in the treatment of foreigners who stay in Korea, but still have a long way to go in fully being an accepting multicultural nation.

Categories: Migrants

News Brief January 21-24, 2011

January 25, 2011 Leave a comment

News Briefs                                                                                                                                                   January 21, 2011

Pastor Gets 9 Years for Multiple Child Rape 

65 year old pastor Kang was sentenced to 9 years for raping an 11 year old girl and sexually molesting three other under-aged members of his congregation. Kang was also accused of taking sexual pictures of the victims and beating and threatening them. The court ruling stated that, “the defendant assaulted five teenagers by coercing them with his religious authority… He left serious, untreatable scars on the young victims.”

Labor Activists Continue Sit-ins through Subzero Temperatures 

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) is protesting against Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC) in an attempt to force HHIC to end layoffs. Kim Jin-suk, a member of the direction committee of KCTU’s Busan office, is sitting-in a 35-meter high vessel crane at HHIC’s Yeongdo shipyard in subzero temperatures. HHIC received a court ruling to remove Kim from the site; however, Kim refused to end the protest. Friday marked Kim’s 15th sit-in day.

Government to Provide IT Training for Multicultural Families 

The Ministry of Public Administration and Security and the National Information Society Agency plans to provide IT training for 2,300 marriage migrants and 330 multicultural families. This new program is designed to aid migrants and multicultural families in adjusting to life in Korea by giving them the tools and opportunities needed.

NHRCK Calls for Human Rights in North Korea 

Korea’s National Human Rights Commission wishes to introduce legislation on North Korean human rights and enact an independent archive to investigate, collect, and record human rights violations in North Korea. A bill on situating and contextualizing human rights in North Korea remains pending in the National Assembly; however, human rights activists insist the bill is far too moderate to insight any actual changes in North Korea.

January 22, 2011

Government Rejects NHRCK’s Labor Recommendations 

The Ministry of Employment and Labor (MoEL) recently rejected the National Human Rights Commission of Korea’s (NHRCK) recommendation to reduce excessive governmental interference in labor union establishment procedures and the criteria on valid union members. In rejecting NHRCK’s recommendations, the government plans to continue to only permitting labor union activities within a stringent and restrictive framework. President Lee’s administration has also been accused of abusing current labor unions in using the system to suppress unions the administration does not agree with. The Seoul Administrative Court ruled in line with NHRCK’s recommendations; however, the MoEL remains adherent to its intolerant approach.

Former ‘Comfort Woman’s’ Last Wish 

Lee Ok-sun, 84, was 15 when she was kidnapped by the Japanese military and drafted to become a sex slave during Japan’s invasion of the Korean peninsula. IN 1996, Lee decided to publicize her experiences and began traveling the world, giving lectures on the sufferings of the ‘comfort women.’ Now, like most other former ‘comfort women,’ Lee is ailing; her heart and kidneys are failing, and her vision and hearing are impaired from the beatings she endured during her time as a ‘comfort woman.’ Lee’s last wish before she dies is to receive an apology from Japan to her and all other surviving former ‘comfort women.’

January 23, 2011

Lonely ‘Mart Kids’ Deprived of Proper Care 

Children playing in supermarkets during winter vacation were found to be lacking in proper parental care. Children staying at supermarkets from morning to late evening tended to avoid social contact and experts report that such children are shown little affection or care at home. Supermarket employees worry over the children’s safety as there are no adults with the children; employees also fear that the children may be more vulnerable to crime as they remain unprotected throughout the day and evenings.

North Korean Defector Turned Freedom Fighter through Art 

Song Byeok, 42, defected in 2002 and now uses his artwork to depict difficulties of life in North Korea. Song stated that he was now free of the ‘brainwashing’ he experienced in North Korea. “For a long time, I honestly believed Kim was a great leader and that my country was better off than others,” Song said. Song’s art often caricaturizes North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and his regime; Song stated that he now wants “to devote [his] art to letting the world know that everyone, including North Koreans, deserves to be free.”

January 24, 2011

Budget Cuts for Seoul’s Cultural Programs 

The Seoul Metropolitan Government stated that foreigners wishing to participate in Seoul’s cultural programs will have to wait as Seoul’s cultural programs receive budget cuts. The programs will be available for 1,740 foreigners through 30 events this year, down from 2,591 available slots for 37 events last year. This year, the government will combine several programs together in order to accommodate budget cuts.

Ministry of Employment and Labor Rejects Recommendation from NHRCK 

The Ministry of Employment and Labor has recently released a statement rejecting the recommendation submitted by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) to include the unemployed and recently laid off employees in the National Labor Union and Relations Law. The Ministry replied stating that including this group the law would lose its exclusiveness in protecting those working.

Gwangju to Build Democratic and Peace Human Rights Center on Former Prison Site 

On the 21st of January, over 100 members of various civic organizations met in Gwangju, city in Southwest of Seoul, to present the “Human Rights City Gwangju Proposal”. The proposal states the various programs it plans to carry out to make Gwangju the main hub representing Human Rights in South Korea. As the first steps it was proposed to build a Democratic and Peace Human Rights Center on a former prison site in Gwangju.

NHRCK Propose Letter Exchange Program Between Separated Families  

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) released a statement on the 21st that they plan to promote a letter exchange program between separated families in South and North Korea. It was indicated that the letter exchange program goes along the lines of their “Roadmap for the Improvement of North Korean Human Rights” released earlier this year.

Korea Gov.’s high rejection rate to refugee status brings legal fights

September 29, 2010 1 comment

Jun 15, 2010

By MyungJin Lee

In March of 2010, the first naturalized South Korean citizenship was granted to a 38-year-old Ethiopian man who fled Ethiopia in 2001. However, this milestone event granting citizenship seems to not be an extension to other refugees seeking asylum status in South Korea. As such, these desperate people have filed law suits against the Ministry of Justice in Korea.

Since 1992, when South Korea adopted the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Korea government has received asylum status claims beginning in 1994 and the first refugee entered South Korea in 2001. Overall, between 1994 and 2009, the South Korean government received total 2,492 applications, mostly from North Korea.

However, the Korea Justice Department has rejected 994 refugees in 2009 which has been deemed sudden and unusual. A number of refugees who seek legal resolutions are dramatically increasing; 121 cases have been filed to the Seoul Administrative Court from January to May of 2010 compared to 15 cases in 2008.

These decisions were made to maintain strong national security, particularly due to North Korean defectors being revealed as espionage agents. Of the recent defectors turned spy, Kim, a 36 year-old female North Korean defector, is under custody. According to Yonhap News, she reportedly passed herself off as a refugee from the closed communist state, then began a relationship with a former subway employee, who handed her classified information including emergency contacts for Seoul’s subway system. South Korean authorities fear the information could be used by the north for terrorist attacks.

As a result of the policies, the South Korean Justice Department has rejected hundreds of asylum status applications from refugees. Desperate people have come to the Seoul Administrative Court, but because of time and money constraints it “has a limit to solve the entire problem,” said one court official close to the matter.

Since most refugees do not receive legal status in Korea, they cannot be employed and earn money. As such, receiving aids from non-profit organizations is the only way for most to survive in Korea. A high NGO official stated that “refugee applicants hope for increased services” to protect more refugees in Korea help restart their lives.

Til death do we part. Marriage after 10 days, Murdered after 8.

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment

July 25, 2010

By Mirae Kang

On July 8 Thach Thi Hoang Ngoc, a young 20-year-old bride, was killed by her husband in the port city of Busan. Since being united with her husband, she was beaten and stabbed in the stomach after a quarrel. Ngoc’s 47-year-old husband, Kim turned himself in while confessing of hearing a ghost telling him to kill his wife.

Ngoc, seeking her “Korean Dream” was married to Kim within ten days in January through an international marriage agency but had to wait to receive her visa. Prior to their marriage, Kim had been treated for mental illness 57 times over the past 8 years. The lack of information provided to Ngoc on Kim’s mental condition has caused concern.

The National Human Rights Commission said in a statement that, “the government should thoroughly investigate the cause of the case of the Vietnamese woman and prevent such incidents that infringe upon marriage migrants’ rights,” noting it will also join efforts to reform the system, according to Yonhap News.

The rising social issues of international marriage and migrant workers have been a relatively recent issue for the South Korean government. A decade ago, South Korea was a labor exporting country, but migrant women have increasingly been entering in search of work via international marriage.

Multi-cultural families have increased threefold since 2004 and 255,000 foreigners (2.4% of the population) of 152 nationalities live in Seoul alone.

Since the incident, the Ministry of Justice has called for preventive measures in requiring men seeking international marriage to take cultural or marriage counseling courses with the Korea Immigration Service. Another legislative measure is in progress requiring men to provide information on past mental disorders, domestic violence, divorces, or alcohol addictions before receiving marriage visas.

Historically, Korean women have been portrayed as obedient housewives but with the cost of living increasing, Korean women have increasingly entered the job market. These women have slowly changed the image of obedience to one of independence and have voiced their opinion in the lack of women rights within Korean society. But for Korean men, especially in rural areas, finding a suitable mate has proven to be difficult. Deeply rooted traditions of family life are difficult and unattractive for modern Korean women; as such these men have begun to seek wives internationally in neighboring Asian countries. But the cultural and language barriers of between spouses have led to a rising number of divorces and in this case, death.

According to Yonhap News, the number of counseling sessions for foreign wives rose to 16.5 percent from a year ago. In a report provided by the Seoul-based Emergency Support Center for Migrant Women conflicts between couples vary from domestic violence, conflicts with the mother-in-law, disappointment with reality and economic difficulties.

The Korean government hopes to keep this incident from affecting South Korean-Vietnamese relations but the needs and issues of the foreign population are growing. During the 2008 UN Universal Periodic Review on human rights standards in South Korea, the international community boldly expressed their concerns in meeting the needs of the foreign population and recommended that South Korea ratify the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW).

Starting July 19, city and district offices will begin investigating over 1,000 international marriage agencies for valid licenses. But the government has yet to state what punitive measures it will take against illegal agencies currently in practice. The South Korean government and public have shown deep concern over the matter and hope to see improvements in the coming months.

Lee Ra, Korea’s 1st immigrant to be elected to a provincial council: “I want to help multicultural families”

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Tues Jun 15

Ji-Su Park

Lee Ra, a 33-year-old immigrant from Mongolia who obtained South Korean citizenship only two years ago, was elected to the provincial council of Gyeonggi Province as a proportional representative for the Grand National Party.

In her interview with Yonhap news, Lee said, “When we make a decision to come to this country, we think of spending the rest of our lives here.  So we don’t want to be treated as foreigners all the time.  While newcomers should make efforts to adjust to a new environment, the government needs to provide more support for them to help deal with the language barrier, the lack of job opportunities, and sometimes, discrimination.”

The South Korean local elections held on June 2nd were significant.  Many political parties across the nation including the Grand National Party, Liberty Forward Party, and the Participation Party had “multicultural candidates” as their candidates for proportional representatives.  Proportional representatives gain seats in the provincial councils according to the number of votes their party receives in the election.

Lee’s win holds a great symbolic significance in South Korean society, since she became the first naturalized Korean citizen to be elected to a public office in South Korea.

This year’s local elections were very unprecedented, since there were six multicultural candidates in several political parties.  But Lee was the only candidate who was elected to the office.  In the council of Gyeonggi Province, Lee plans to work on policies to improve employment and education for female foreign migrants and their children.

Lee first came to Korea in September 2003 after marrying a South Korean businessman.  She changed her name from Gerel Nergur, a Mongolian name, to Lee Ra, a Korean name.  Lee obtained South Korean citizenship in October 2008 and has been helping other foreign brides and multicultural families as a marriage-based immigrant herself.  Currently, Lee works at a Seoul immigration office and volunteers at a multicultural support center in Seongnam.

The National Election Commission of South Korea recently stated that today, 88,000 naturalized citizens and 12,899 foreign nationals who have been permanent residents of South Korea for more than three years have the right to vote. ■