Hanawon: South Korea's Resettlement Program for North Korean Refugees
January 20, 2013 12:28 PM Subscribe
North Korea has been called the world's most repressive state [previously
], but every year, two to three thousand North Koreans manage to escape to South Korea. Recognizing the potential for disorientation among the refugees and disruption for South Korean society, in 1999 the government's Unification Ministry set up a mandatory resettlement program called Hanawon--"one people". (It also screens the newcomers carefully for spies.) Last year, due to growing need, the government opened another Hanawon centre.
In addition to taking care of the refugees' physical needs (e.g. food, housing, clothing), Hanowan centres provide job skills training, language classes (there are some significant language differences between the North and the South
) and social orientation to help prepare them for their new life. After graduation, they receive some financial and housing assistance...and then they must integrate into South Korean society. However, all is not necessarily happily-ever-after: Some are disappointed
that South Korea is not the nirvana they thought it would be. Many suffer from psychological distress
at the culture shock they experience. Some find they are treated
as second-class citizens.
Although Hanawon has received criticism
that it is not doing enough for North Korean refugees, some acknowledge that there is no quick fix possible for the issues inherent in resettlement. North Korean Economy Watch
weighs in with an editorial
that addresses some of the common complaints.