Interviews with NK Defectors in Seoul

NKZone has a second post about interviews with North Korean defectors in Seoul. (The earlier post is here.) The group interviews were conducted by Brendan Brown, an Australian national who teaches English to North Korean refugees in Seoul. The introduction notes that SK’s “Unification Ministry has asked Brendan to act as an informal consultant on North Koreans’ views, since the refugees are apparently less trusting of the South Korean government.” The reasons show up in response to question 7.

7) Do the North Korean people still want re-unification with the South? What do most North Koreans think of the South Korean government and people?

Mixed bag of responses here. Of course their greater desire is for North Korea in its present form to disappear forever. Nearly all want to return to their hometowns in a free democratic North Korea.

As for re-unification and their feelings toward the South Korean government and people, the longer one has lived in South Korea the less favourably he considers re-unification and South Koreans. At first, after arriving in South Korea they are appreciative to be in a free and plentiful country and wish for immediate re-unification. However their initials feelings of gratitude eventually turn to disappointment and even resentment of their status in the eyes of South Koreans.

Many South Koreans are openly patronizing of the North Koreans in their dealings with them. Asking what it is like to eat leaves and barks or frogs at a first meeting isn’t a way to win North Koreans over. Neither is asking if any family members have starved to death or are imprisoned in North Korea (perhaps because of their own defection). North Koreans don’t welcome the bringing up of bitter memories by unknown people, yet many South Koreans ask these type of questions as if enquireing about the weather.

As a North Korea expert I once worked for used to suggest, Unification-era Korea will resemble the Reconstruction-era South in the newly re-United States, with South Koreans playing the role of imperious Yankee carpetbaggers, and North Koreans playing the role of resentful Southern tenant farmers.

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