South Korea Plans to Designate Day for North Korean Defectors

SEOUL — South Korea is moving forward with plans to designate a special day for North Korean defectors, a move that Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho says will hold significance not only for those who have resettled in South Korea but also for individuals still living in North Korea. The announcement came after President Yoon Suk Yeol instructed the Unification Ministry to establish such a day during a Cabinet meeting on January 16, highlighting the defectors' status as South Korean citizens under the national constitution.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the initiative aims to celebrate the successes of North Korean defectors as a measure of South Korean society's readiness for unification and to convey a message of hope for a free and prosperous future to the people of North Korea. During a meeting with civic organizations, including groups of North Korean defectors, Kim emphasized the day should belong to the defectors, by the defectors, and for the defectors, underlining their critical role in the South Korean community. The ministry has committed to enhancing support for North Korean defectors, including boosting resettlement subsidies for new arrivals and expanding access to mental health services across various regions.

Participants at the meeting, representing civic and defector organizations, expressed their strong support for the designation, viewing it as a step that fosters a pro-South Korea sentiment and a deeper longing for unification led by the Republic of Korea. Kim Heung-kwang, leader of the North Korea Intellectual Solidarity, described the move as "unprecedented" and a significant gesture of solidarity and support for the defector community.

This policy is part of South Korea's broader stance on welcoming North Korean defectors, offering them a chance to rebuild their lives in the South, and, if necessary, facilitating the repatriation of those who accidentally enter South Korean territory and wish to return. As of the end of the previous year, the total number of North Korean defectors living in South Korea had reached 34,078, according to data from the ministry.

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