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Two N. Korean defectors to run in local elections

All Headlines 12:04 May 11, 2010

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, May 11 (Yonhap) -- The minor opposition Liberty Forward Party (LFP) has nominated two North Korean defectors as candidates for its proportional representation seats in Seoul in the June 2 local elections, party officials said Tuesday.

Choi Hae-yeon, 45, and Kim In-shil, 52, were listed as proportional representative candidates for Seoul's Songpa and Gangseo district councils, respectively, according to the party officials.

It is the first time that a major political party has nominated a defector from the North as an election candidate.

The defectors, both women, have worked for the Coalition for North Korean Women's Rights since they fled their communist homeland in the early 2000s.

The proportional representation system was introduced in 2004 with the aim of encouraging candidates from diverse backgrounds to run for office. Under current election law, a political party can grab proportional seats if it wins over 5 percent of eligible votes from a local district.

LFP officials said they gave top priority to the former North Koreans due to their activities to help tens of thousands North Koreans facing difficulties in settling here.

"Although the number of North Korean defectors living in the South has reached about 20,000, they still suffer hardships in settling in our society," said Rep. Park Sun-young, spokeswoman for the party. "We gave the candidates the No. 1 spot so that North Korean defectors can stand on their own feet politically and get out of their passive position."

More than 18,000 North Koreans have settled in the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, with the number rising annually, from 1,138 in 2002 to 2,809 last year. Nearly two-thirds of them are women.

Some 4,000 seats are up for grabs in the June 2 elections, including gubernatorial and mayoral posts as well as provincial and city council seats.


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