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S. Korea seeks educational support for N. Korean defectors' children born abroad

By Yonhap

Published : May 28, 2024 - 19:44

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The Korean flag is seen through barbed wire at the DMZ, Panmunjeom, South Korea. (Getty Images) The Korean flag is seen through barbed wire at the DMZ, Panmunjeom, South Korea. (Getty Images)

The unification ministry said Tuesday it will push to provide educational support for North Korean defectors' children who were born in third countries in an effort to tackle the blind spot in the welfare system.

The move is part of the fourth three-year basic plan to support the resettlement of North Korean defectors. The ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs held a pan-government meeting earlier in the day to review and approve the 2024-2026 plan.

Under the blueprint, the government plans to draw up legal grounds to provide educational support to North Korean defectors' children born in third countries, mostly in China.

Currently, only youths who were born in North Korea and defected to South Korea are entitled to receive tuition and other financial support and get a chance for special admission to colleges. But North Korean defectors' children born abroad have been excluded from such benefits.

As of 2023, the proportion of the defectors' children born in third countries accounted for 71 percent of the total elementary, middle, and high schoolers in North Korean defectors' households.

An increasing number of North Korean defectors find themselves stranded in China or other countries, unable to reach South Korea despite escaping their repressive home country. As a result, more defectors give birth to children in such third countries.

"The basic plan contains measures to make up for the blind spot in the existing policy and to better support the North's defectors," Vice Unification Minister Moon Seoung-hyun said at the meeting.

The unification ministry also plans to push to "legalize" the principle of accepting North Korean defectors at the incoming 22nd National Assembly.

In 2022, the ministry proposed a revised act on the defectors' protection and support for their resettlement in a bid to prevent such refugees' forceful repatriation.

Under the former liberal Moon Jae-in administration, two North Korean fishermen were deported in 2019 to North Korea against their will as they confessed to killing 16 fellow crew members before they were captured near the eastern sea border. (Yonhap)