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Ministry rebuffs report that settlement support for N.K. defectors halved

All Headlines 13:56 July 09, 2019

SEOUL, July 9 (Yonhap) -- The unification ministry denied a media report on Tuesday that its budget for North Korean defectors has sharply declined, adding that the assistance has been on a steady rise in the past few years.

The conservative daily Chosun Ilbo earlier reported that government support for civic groups' projects to help North Korean defectors' settlement here has halved, without citing any sources.

"No. It is absolutely not true," a ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity. "The budget set aside for such projects intended to help North Korean defectors' settlement has been rather steadily on the rise."

The official said the ministry set aside 383 million won (US$324,300) for the purpose in 2015 and that the amount rose to 430 million won in 2017, 500 million won in 2018 and 522 million won in 2019, respectively.

The budget is apart from various types of support that individual North Korean defectors are eligible to receive when they cross into South Korea, including settlement subsidies, another ministry official explained.

The ministry earlier said that it plans to expand support for North Korean defectors, saying that state subsidies to help their settlement will increase to 8 million won from 7 million won starting in mid-July.

Currently, more than 32,000 North Korean defectors are living in South Korea. In the first half of this year, the number of North Koreans who defected to the South totaled 546, according to the ministry.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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