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Report paints stark reality for North Koreans

March 20, 2011 - 18:19 By
The belief that South and North Korea are “one nation” might be a fantastic idea in theory, but it does not reflect the reality of the situation.

Last week, the British and Netherlands Embassies co-hosted a seminar with the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights to highlight and discuss the launch of reports about the integration of North Korean defectors in South Korea and the violence against women in the North.

The first report, “Homecoming Kinsmen or Indigenous Foreigners?” looks at the growing number of escapees from North Korea and their subsequent resettlement in South Korea, Europe, and North America and how that resettlement has brought attention to the issue of their adjustment in those countries.

The majority of North Korean defectors arrive in South Korea and enter an integration system.

“Primarily educated and raised in a totalitarian country known for its huge digital divide with the rest of the world, North Koreans leave their country unprepared for the challenges of living in a capitalist, democratic, and multicultural societies, thus lacking the necessary skills to cope with the modern world,” said NKHR International Campaign and Cooperation Team head Joanna Hosaniak.

The long-lasting divide between the two countries has placed a “mental demarcation line” between South and North Korean people which will have to be dealt with before and after any movements toward reunification, she added.

“Homecoming Kinsmen or Indigenous Foreigners?” addresses the issue of how North Koreans adjust to South Korean society, but also inquires into their view of the outside world, including their most important values and perspectives on unification and transitional justice.

The other report released titled, “The Battered Wheel of the Revolution. Report on Violence against Women in North Korea,” examines the place of women in the North.

Despite all the guarantees of women’s rights that exist both within North Korean and international law, the domestic reality for North Korean women remains unequal with legal provisions.

“All North Koreans, from birth, learn traditional patriarchy, male dominance over women, and stereotyped gender roles,” said Hosaniak. “As a result, various types of cultural practices make women vulnerable to violence.”

The report explains that among various settings, the family is one of the places where violence against women occurs most frequently, most often perpetrated by the husband.

In addition, due to the perception that the state should not intervene in private family matters, the North Korean police turn a blind eye to this matter even when witnesses and victims directly report domestic violence.

“Violence in public spheres and the army remains prevalent as well,” she said. “Women who suffered abuse often find themselves helpless not knowing where to seek legal remedies and protection, or how to cope with the violence emotionally.”

By Yoav Cerralbo (