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Defectors use gov't subsidy to help families in N. Korea: poll

All Headlines 11:45 February 23, 2011

SEOUL, Feb. 23 (Yonhap) -- A recent survey of North Korean defectors in South Korea showed Wednesday that a large number of them use part of their resettlement money from the government here to help their families in the North.

In the survey conducted in November by the Organization for One Korea, a group run by unification activists, 71 percent of 350 respondents said they have sent money back to the communist country before. About 66 percent of the cash remitters said that they used part of their money received from the South Korean government.

In an effort to buffer the initial costs of resettlement, the government here provides each defector with a subsidy of 6 million won (US$5,330) and partly finances their housing.

More than 20,000 North Korean defectors have arrived in South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce. The number does not account for the estimated tens of thousands hiding in China.

According to the survey that had a margin of error of 3.59 percentage points, about half of the cash remitters said brokers took away 30 percent of their money sent to the North as a fee, while only 65 percent believed the remainder was entirely delivered.

North Korean defectors are 17 times likelier to depend on government allowances, according to the Unification Ministry. Over 50 percent of defectors depend on a universal welfare program that pays them about 400,000 won (US$355) a month.

Defections began to accelerate after a massive famine swept through North Korea in the mid-1990s, killing an estimated 2 million people. North Korea considers defectors criminals punishable even by death.

samkim@yna.co.kr
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