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A Study on Economic Activities and Quality of Life of North Korean Defectors in Seoul

Inchul Mun・Meekyong Song

In general, the socially underprivileged are understood as groups or individuals who are in a socially disadvantaged position due to political, economic, social, and cultural alienation, discrimination, and exclusion. They cannot live a humane life due to various disadvantages. The socially underprivileged is a complex and relative meaning related to social exclusion and vulnerability of life in terms of community solidarity. Social exclusion refers to being excluded from resource allocation, opportunities, and decision-making process at various levels, including politics, culture, and economy of society. Those who face social exclusion cannot act as a member of the community. This concept has been developed by explaining vulnerable life problems of the socially underprivileged, with 'poverty' existing as a key issue. However, if social exclusion is approached only at the economic level of poverty, it will not be able to explain social isolation, alienation, or non-mainstream problems caused by various causes. Until now, policies for North Korean defectors have not been able to approach the unstable life of those who are marginalized and vulnerable in a multifaceted and dynamic way while approaching issues of settlement, self-sufficiency, and self-reliance focusing on the economic dimension.

According to the survey of this study, the employment rate of North Korean defectors in Seoul is 58.3%, 2.1%p lower than 60.4% of Seoul citizens, 0.9%p lower than 59.2% of North Korean defectors nationwide, and 3.8%p lower than 62.1% of the general public. In addition, 37.7% of North Korean defectors in Seoul are recipients of the National Basic Living Security and 46.7% have no income at all or less than 1 million won per month.

Because North Korean defectors have no physical or human foundation, a great sense of social and cultural difference, and psychological and emotional vulnerabilities, it is difficult to help them successfully settle down and continue to be self-sufficient and self-reliant with only economic approaches. Therefore, the Seoul Metropolitan Government needs to promote various policies to support North Korean defectors from the perspective of quality of life. First, it is necessary to promote customized employment information and vocational training education support projects for each generation. Second, it is necessary to establish an independent system for discovering and supporting vulnerable households for North Korean defectors at the Seoul Metropolitan Government level. Third, it is necessary to establish a life-friendly and field-oriented welfare service system using various private communities, focusing on areas where North Korean defectors are concentrated. Fourth, the Seoul Metropolitan Government needs to further guarantee government support that has been missed during the residence protection period (5 years) for various reasons. Fifth, it is necessary to use various local communities to eliminate discrimination and prejudice against North Korean defectors and increase social support and self-esteem.