Male defectors struggle more with unemployment than female defectors, a South Korean lawmaker revealed Friday.
The unemployment rate among male defectors is getting worse, while female defectors’ rate is improving, though still worse than males’, statistics show.
Kim Young-woo of the ruling Saenuri Party revealed the statistics, which were part of the National Assembly’s annual inspection of the government, including unification and defector settlement policy.
In 2011 male defectors’ employment rate was 61.9 percent, but by 2014 it had decreased to 61.2 percent. Female defectors’ employment rate went in the opposite direction, from 45.5 percent in 2011 to 48.5 percent in 2014.
The gap between defectors’ employment rates and the South Korean national average is getting bigger for males, from 8.6 percent in 2011 to 10.2 percent in 2014, while the difference is decreasing for females, down to only 1 percent in 2014.
The overall difference between the defectors’ rate and the national average has been decreasing each year.
“While some say employment is more difficult than defection, the improvement of the general employment situation is a very positive change,” Kim said. “Considering the larger difference between South Korea’s average employment rate and that of male defectors’, the government should prepare customized vocational training.”
Kim also pointed to the quality of jobs, noting that many defectors work in menial labor and the service sector.
According to the press release from Kim’s office, 37.6 percent of male defectors are working in menial labor, along with 30.4 percent of female defectors. The service sector employs 9.8 percent of male defectors and 28.9 percent of females. Only 21.4 percent of male defectors and 8.2 percent of females are technicians.
Among the South Korean populace at large, only 10.69 percent of men and 15.87 percent of women work in menial labor, according to the Korean Statistical Information Service.
Defector experts and activists pointed out the differences among male and female defectors, mainly because of the marketization trend in North Korea.
Lee So-yeon, president of the New Korea Women’s Union – and herself a defector – said women tend to adapt to South Korean society quicker than men, as they have already had to learn how to survive.
“Women are good at changing their North Korean dialects, and sometimes introduce themselves as ethnic Koreans from China to get a job. They have more experience in the markets than males,” Lee told NK News.
Kim Heung-gwang, president of NK Intellectuals Solidarity, said that female defectors have a stronger will to work to support their children in China or families in North Korea, and he suggested that the employment rate may actually be misleading, as some have unstable, part-time jobs. Jang Se-yup from Gyeore-Eol Nation United, another defectors’ organization, said that male defectors expect higher salaries as they have to head the household, unlike women who will take job opportunities despite the lower salary.
Jeong Jin-hwa, professional instructor from the Institute for Unification Education, said a recent policy change has worsened the problem.
“Since last November, the government has shortened the vocational training period, which helped them get certificates to learn skills. The government pledged to double the money defectors earn by working, but without full training, it is too difficult to pass interviews,” Jeong told NK News.
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Featured Image: Workers walking in the street, Pyongyang, North Korea by Eric Lafforgue on 2010-05-10 14:09:56