The government will launch a new foundation Monday aimed at assisting the smooth settlement of North Korean defectors as the number of refugees from the North who have entered South Korea surpasses the 20,000 mark.
“The stated-funded foundation will play a pivotal role in promoting collaboration between the public and private sectors over the development of a new settlement system,” the Unification Ministry said in a press release.
The government has set aside 24.8 billion won ($21.9 million) to cover the operation expenses of the new foundation for next year, according to the ministry.
Some 300 dignitaries and North Korean defectors will attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the foundation to be held today at a convention center of the 63 Building in Yeoiudo, Seoul.
Unification Minister Hyun In-taek and more than 10 lawmakers, including Ahn Sang-soo and Lee Hoi-chang, leaders of the governing Grand National Party and minor opposition Liberty Forward party, are planning to participate in the opening ceremony.
Kim Il-ju, former head of the Association of Supporters for North Korean Defectors, will lead the new organization.
The number of North Korean defectors in South Korea, which stood at around 1,000 in 1999, has been fast increasing, breaking the 10,000 mark in 2007 and the 20,000 mark recently in early November.
Of them, some 68 percent are women and roughly 70 percent have completed their secondary education.
North Korean refugees are entitled to financial assistance of up to 24.4 million won for job training and work preparation, as well as 13 million won for housing from the government.
However, despite such financial aids and the fact that 75 percent of North Korean defectors are in their 20s to 40s, their unemployment rate remains at an alarmingly high level of 49 percent.
The average monthly wage of employed North Korean defectors is roughly 1.27 million won, less than half of what an average South Korean office worker earns a month, according to a 2010 survey by the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training.
Critics say that North Korean defectors are becoming second-class citizens and increasingly vulnerable to temptations to commit crimes as many of them fail to adjust to their new lives in South Korea and land a descent job.
Studies show that the majority of working North Korean defectors, or more than two thirds of them that are employed, work as manual laborers. Source: koreatimes