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North Korea/North Korean Settlers

North Korea is always a hot potato in Korea. Whenever spreading a newspaper, we can easily see articles on North Korea—from opinions to articles about the North’s political, social, or economic issues to articles writing about an episode related to the North. Then, how much do you know about North Korean settlers? At most, you might come up with some beauties from the North who have appeared on a TV program “On My Way to See You,” or famous figures like Hwang Jang-Yub or Lee Han-Young.

However, there live more North Korean settlers in Korea than we think. According to North Korean Refugees Foundation, the number reaches 25,560 (7,811 men and 17,749 women) as of August in 2013 and around 1,000 to 3,000 persons has continuously come to the South since 2002. Since most of them are in their 10s, 20s, 30s, or 40s and grew up under socialist system, they have a difficulty in adapting themselves to the capitalist system in the South. Since most of them came alone or with a few family members, they have a difficulty in having a family in the South. Some of them lived in hiding for a long period in China or South East Asia before coming to the South, so they did not have a chance to learn or work for a long time.

We can easily think various long-term supports are necessary for their settlement in Korea. It is because even though the government established relevant law (e.i., the Act on the Protection and Settlement Support of Residents Escaping from North Korea and has provided basic support to them in terms of protection/ education/employment/residence/health and livelihood assistance, their successful settlements are almost impossible without additional supports from the private sector. There are some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) helping North Koreans successful settle in Korea, but such NGOs often have difficulty due to lack of social attention.

Amidst the situation, to be a small help, the Subcommittee provides legal advice on establishing/improving the system required for North Korean residents’ successful settlements in the South. In particular, with a long-term view that such system establishment and improvement is not merely for solving current problems but is for preparing for the reunification of two Koreas, and based on its numerous researches on unification cases of German and on system transformation cases of Vietnam and China, the Subcommittee conducts many researches in cooperation with the Ministry of Unification, the Ministry of Government Legislation, the Korean Bar Association, government agencies, local governments, North Korean Refugee Foundation, etc.

The Subcommittee also provides legal advice and education to alternative schools (Yeomyung School, etc.) and NGOs including North Korean Settlers Job-Seeking Support Center. Recently, the Subcommittee has expanded its legal support and prepared a plan for one-to-one mentoring program for college students from the North. In addition, the Subcommittee categorizes the cases requiring legal support, among civil/criminal cases where North Korean settlers are the party, as pro bono cases and provides legal services such as legal advice and litigation support.
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