BUSAN (Yonhap News) ― Eight North Korean defectors are believed to have sought asylum in Britain after staying for years in South Korea, police said Tuesday.
Police in Busan recently conducted a survey on 25 North Korean defectors who stayed in foreign countries for more than three months. The police hoped to gain insight into the North Koreans’ motivation to live overseas.
Among them, eight North Korean defectors, including a couple, are believed to be staying in Britain in an attempt to win asylum, according to a police official handling defectors in Busan.
South Korea is home to more than 20,000 North Koreans who fled hunger and political oppression in their communist homeland, but many of them fail to get decent jobs, falling further down the social ladder in this highly competitive society.
Such challenges apparently prompted some North Koreans with hopes of a higher quality of life to leave South Korea and seek asylum in foreign countries.
North Koreans fleeing their homeland can seek asylum in South Korea and other foreign countries, but once they become South Korean citizens, they are not eligible to seek refuge in foreign countries, said Lee Jong-joo, a spokeswoman for the Unification Ministry handling inter-Korean affairs.
Lee said she did not have any data on how many North Korean defectors from South Korea applied for asylum in foreign countries and how many were deported.
The survey only targeted North Koreans who lived in South Korea’s second-largest city of Busan after defecting from the North. Nationwide figures were not immediately available.
The police official said many of those who tried to seek asylum have failed to adjust to South Korea and struggled with economic difficulties after running out of the money they received from the South Korean government.
He did not elaborate and asked not to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to media.
South Korea provides defectors with three months of mandatory resettlement training and doles out 13 million won ($11,650) to each household as housing subsidy while offering vocational training to help them find jobs.
Some 42 percent of 768 North Koreans surveyed last year in Busan said they have jobs, though most of them have non-regular jobs, according to police.