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(LEAD) Acting president calls for systematic resettlement support for N.K. defectors

All Headlines 18:58 January 10, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 9-11)

ANSEONG, South Korea, Jan. 10 (Yonhap) -- Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn on Tuesday called for systematic support to help North Korean defectors better settle in South Korea, highlighting their crucial role in Seoul's efforts to lay the groundwork for unification.

During his visit to Hanawon, a government-run resettlement support center for North Korean refugees, Hwang encouraged young defectors to make contributions in the future to ushering in an era of unification on the Korean Peninsula.

Established in 1999, Hanawon in Anseong, some 77 kilometers south of Seoul, offers a three-month resettlement education program for defectors that have fled poverty and repression in their homeland. It is attached to the Unification Ministry handling inter-Korean affairs.

"The process of each defector being integrated into our society and settling here is in itself the unification that has come earlier," Hwang was quoted by his aide as saying during a briefing at Hanawon.

Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn speaks during his visit to Hanawon, a government-run resettlement support center for North Korean refugees, in Anseong, some 77 kilometers south of Seoul, on Jan. 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

"Their successful resettlement and integration here offers hope to North Korean residents and will serve as a crucial asset to bring about unification at an earlier date," he added.

At the institution, Hwang, in particular, met with North Korean defectors, volunteer workers and officials and offered his encouragement. Among them was the 30,000th defector who came to South Korea in November.

Since the first North Korean defector came to the South in 1962, the number of defectors rose to 10,000 in 2006, 20,000 in 2010 and 30,000 as of November.

The Park Geun-hye administration has been making policy efforts to prepare for unification, which it said would bring about an "economic bonanza" and help promote peace on the peninsula and beyond. But Pyongyang views the move with suspicion, believing that Seoul seeks to forcibly absorb it into a democratic political system.

Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo accompanied the acting president during his visit to Hanawon. There, Hong underscored some of the merits of a liberal democracy.

"The Republic of Korea is where you get rewarded for the efforts you make," he said.

"Though it will not be easy when you enter society, the thing that matters most is to keep trying," he added.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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