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European firms offer internship to N. Korean defectors

  SEOUL, June 24 (Yonhap) -- HSBC Bank and several other European companies in South Korea plan to offer a rare internship program to dozens of North Korean defectors in a move to give them work experience, an official said Friday.

   Under the initial program, 20 North Korean college students and graduates in the South are scheduled to work as interns at about 10 European firms for about three months, beginning July, said Chun Hae-sung, a spokesman for the Unification Ministry handling inter-Korean affairs.

   The program is being provided in cooperation with the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea and the Unification Ministry to help rear young North Korean defectors as future leaders on the unified Korean Peninsula, said Chun.

   Twenty other North Korean interns will work in about 10 South Korean small and medium-sized companies, according to the ministry.

   The interns could receive about 800,000 won ($740) each month, it added.

   The move comes as many North Korean defectors are struggling to adjust to capitalist life in South Korea as they lag behind their South Korean counterparts in terms of English-language skills and work experience.

   In May, the British embassy in Seoul launched a program to provide English-language skills and work experience to North Korean defectors to help them better adjust to a competitive South Korean society.

   South Korea is home to more than 21,700 North Koreans who fled hunger and political oppression in their communist homeland, but many of them fail to get decent jobs, despite receiving three months of mandatory resettlement training.

   The Koreas remain technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

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