The Hankyoreh English edition reports on a development that I’ve been hearing about from some people here in London recently: the arrival of North Korean ‘defectors’ (or “saet’omin” in the new politically correct terminology) from South Korea seeking asylum in the UK. These are people who have left North Korea as refugees and been resettled in South Korea under the government programme there, but then left again after finding life difficult in the South.
Apparently there are now some 300-350 North Koreans in the UK awaiting decisions on their asylum applications and it seems that this may be causing some tensions within the established (South) Korean community in south west London, where many of them are living. It will be interesting to see how far they get with their applications, since I imagine that the UK government will see them as claiming asylum from South Korea rather than North Korea. On the other hand, I have no doubt that their difficulties in living in South Korea are absolutely real and they have a genuine desire to escape from the second-class status they are lumbered with in the South by making a fresh start in a third country. If our government is at all serious in its condemnation of North Korean human rights abuses and concern for the plight of North Koreans then it ought to welcome them with open arms.