Lee made the remark during a visit to the Committee for the Five Northern Korean Provinces, a symbolic committee comprising "governors" of provinces in North Korea, saying that word about how defectors live in the South will spread across the border.
"If they are treated unfairly and experience unjust things while living here, their family members left behind in the North will get to know about it, which won't be conducive to realizing unification," Lee said, according to his office.
"How to treat defectors from the North is a task that all of our citizens should think about," he said.
|Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon takes a tour of the Committee for the Five Northern Korean Provinces in Seoul on Aug. 7, 2017. (Yonhap)|
Lee said that while serving as governor of the South Jeolla Province, he established a human rights center in the provincial office and hired two lawyers tasked with helping North Korean defectors and ethnic Koreans from China.
"Warmly embracing our compatriots through various ways and helping them live rewarding lives is something that the civilian sector can do to move up unification," Lee said.
Lee also expressed frustration about the impasse in inter-Korean relations, saying the issue is no longer a bilateral matter between the two Koreas, but it has become a complicated global problem due to intensifying tensions over the North's nuclear and missile programs. (Yonhap)