Seoul unveils steps to improve resettlement support for N. Korean defectors
SEOUL, March 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea decided to increase the level of support for North Korean defectors' resettlement to better protect their new-found livelihoods here, the unification ministry said Thursday.
The ministry opted to raise the resettlement basic subsidy for North Korean defectors by 1 million won (US$760) to 9 million won per one-person household, marking the first hike for the program in four years.
The cap for one-time living expenses-related emergency financial assistance was also raised from 1 million won to 1.5 million won per case, it added.
The ministry also plans to closely monitor and track some 1,200 defectors reportedly living in so-called welfare blind spots to proactively detect and address their difficulties.
A North Korean woman who came to the South in 2002 was found in a "skeleton" state in Seoul in October 2022. The case has served as a wake-up call for the government to overhaul its system to protect the North's defectors.
In addition, the ministry plans to strengthen programs to support defectors suffering from trauma and other psychological problems.
The government also plans to revise laws and regulations on overseeing defectors with serious past criminal records, apparently aimed at preventing the recurrence of the 2019 deportation of two North Korean fishermen, who confessed to killing 16 fellow crew members while voicing their desire to defect to the South.
The number of North Korean defectors grew by a small margin last year, up 67 to 33,882, as pandemic-related restrictions made defections more difficult compared to previous years, the ministry said.
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