South Korean Businessman in Kenya to Hire North Korean Defectors

SEOUL – In a significant move to aid North Korean defectors, South Korean businessman Choi Young-chul announced his plans to hire them for his hair wig company in Kenya. This announcement was made following his donation of 30 million won (US$22,000) to support the defectors' resettlement in capitalist society.

According to Yonhap News Agency, which oversees inter-Korean affairs, Choi's contribution will be used to fund educational institutions for North Korean defectors in South Korea. Choi, who has experienced the challenges of settling in Africa, aims to offer support, courage, and hope to North Korean defectors adapting to new environments. While details of his hiring plans were not immediately available, Choi expressed his intention to employ these defectors both in South Korea and in Kenya.

Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho acknowledged Choi's donation, highlighting the ministry's plans to collaborate with more companies to provide better job opportunities for North Korean defectors. Last year, the ministry organized its first job fair in nine years, aimed at assisting defectors in the competitive South Korean job market. Many North Korean defectors face difficulties securing jobs, partly due to language barriers.

The linguistic challenges stem from decades of separation between capitalist South Korea and communist North Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War. Despite using the same alphabet, Hangeul, the two Koreas have developed dialectical differences and deviations in word meanings. Additionally, the frequent use of English words in South Korea adds to the communication challenges between South and North Koreans.

Government data reveals the jobless rate for North Korean defectors in South Korea reached 6 percent in 2022, more than double the rate for all South Koreans. Moreover, their average job retention period was 35.3 months, significantly lower than the 72 months for South Koreans. As of the end of last year, the total number of North Korean defectors in South Korea reached 34,078.

South Korea maintains a policy of accepting North Korean defectors who wish to live in the South and repatriating those who stray into South Korea if they choose to return.

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