08/19/2004, 00.00
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Lessons in capitalism in village for defectors

Seoul (AsiaNews/SCMP) – South Korean volunteers will build a settlement that should receive defectors from the Communist north and prepare them to live in the capitalist south.

It will be called Tongil or Unification village and cover a surface of 165 hectares near Hwaseong, south of South Korea's capital of Seoul. According to the scheme's sponsors, the village will include farms, factories and homes for up to than a hundred families.

"With the number of North Korean defectors increasing, we're now at a time in which we must give systematic support for their settlement in the country, not simply bring them here," said the Reverend Kim Jin-hong of the Doorae Church.

According to estimates from South Korea's Ministry of Unification more than four of the five thousands North Koreans living in the country arrived in the past five years. Given their increasing numbers, the time for tutoring and training defectors has been cut from three to two months.

Coming from a totalitarian regime like that of Pyongyang many defectors have a hard time integrating into one of Asia's most dynamic societies. Alcohol abuse and unemployment are but a few of the problems they face. Moreover, South Korea has so far allocated too few resources to cope with the problem. It actually has only two reception centres.

In a recent statement Unification Minister Chung Dong-young said: "Until now, [our action] was more at the level of helping small groups of North Korean defectors settle down. It is now necessary to review and upgrade the general policy. [. . .] The number of defectors is expected to reach 10,000 within a couple of years."

Between July 27 and 28, 468 North Koreans flew to Seoul. Their arrival represents the largest movement of defectors from the north to date.

For Pyongyang the rescue was an "organised and premeditated allurement, abduction and terrorism committed by the South Korean authorities against people in the North in broad daylight."

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