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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.

 

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.

Slave Contract of Entertainers

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment

By Hyoyeol Chong

In Korea, those who want to become celebrities must make a contract with an agency due to the entertainment industry being run by big companies and their powers.  As such, the contract is usually unfair for the entertainers such as new singers and actors or actresses. Actress Jang Ja-yeon’s suicide, which was due to the forced sexual liaisons by her company, is one incident of the serious human rights oppression of entertainers.

It is common for newcomers to make a contract, in which 90 percent of their earnings are taken by the company with 10 percent to the entertainer. Companies also force the entertainers to maintain a certain body size and to stay in an apartment that the company gives. It is widely known that entertainers cannot go outside without their managers’ permission. Furthermore, the entertainers are forced to make music albums or participate in dramas within contract terms even if they oppose it. This is because the companies want to maximize their profits by using their entertainers. As a result, serious traffic accidents with entertainers often occur due to the hectic schedules established by the companies.

Mun Jae-gap, of the Korea Broadcasting Film and Performance Artists Union, said “When a contract runs long haul, the signee has to suffer many injustices, with some having to maintain the disadvantageous conditions even after becoming a star.” He added that “It is hard to appeal to the law because their image is very important, especially for young and upcoming actresses. Also, they are helpless in dealing with wrongdoers who coerced sexual relations.”

On June 25, The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) decided to provide standardized contract forms to entertainment agencies to prevent unfair contracts during the first half of their contract year. In addition, the FTC proposed for entertainment agencies to revise some unfair clauses of their contracts, which can infringe upon basic human rights, by investigating the conditions of 291 entertainers of 57 entertainment agencies.

Rep. Choi Mun-sun of the Democratic Party, who was the former president of broadcasting station MBC, said “We need to revise the unreasonable agreements practiced in show business. We need to revise the unreasonable practices, especially the slave-like contracts. These problems are directly related to the human rights of the entertainers and we need laws to protect them.”