More than a third of young North Korean defectors here feel discriminated against and want to live in another country, a survey showed Thursday.
The poll was conducted by Kim Shin-hee, a researcher at the Korean Educational Development Institute, on 287 middle school students from August through September last year.
The study showed that 36.9 percent, or 106, of the respondents wanted to live in another country due mainly to the discrimination and difficulties they experience here.
Of those defectors, only 16.3 percent said they felt pride in residing here and 15.7 percent said they thought South Korea was a “better place to live” than other countries.
Kim said the relatively high number of respondents who expressed dissatisfaction living in the country showed that many defectors struggled with their identity and felt “isolated” from society.
A lack of social tolerance or understanding toward defectors and a general attitude of not being accepted as “real” citizens fueled the disillusionment, particularly among young people, the researcher, who works for KEDI’s education support center for North Korean refugees, added.
Over 21,000 North Koreans have defected to the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. They receive citizenship after three months of debriefing and societal adjustment programs.
The number of teen defectors exceeded 1,600 last year, up from 421 in 2005. But their school dropout rate stood at nearly 5 percent, more than twice the general rate, according to a report from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
The study was submitted to Kyungnam University as part of Kim’s doctoral thesis.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org