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Govt. identifies NK defectors in urgent need of help


The Unification Ministry and local governments are taking steps to provide emergency support to destitute defectors from North Korea.

Surveys conducted last year showed that 553 -- or 1.7 percent -- of the 31,000 defectors from the North residing in South Korea were suspected to be in “crisis” and in urgent need of help, the ministry said Tuesday.

The inquiries were made in a bid to locate those in the blind spot of the welfare system, after a woman from North Korea and her 6-year-old son were found dead in their home in Seoul in July last year. The two had apparently starved to death.

The state-run Korea Hana Foundation, which is in charge of supporting defectors from North Korea, selected 373 people in need of emergency support in late September after examining 3,052 defectors who received no basic livelihood support or had no medical or employment insurance.

The foundation selected another 180 in “crisis” last month after going over 783 people whose electricity supply was cut off or utility bills were overdue.

The foundation and local governments are taking steps to provide such people with emergency support. Other measures include making house visits to check on them and making sure they have applied for welfare benefits, the ministry said.

By Kim So-hyun (