|The government will provide additional assistance to more than 500 North Korean defectors deemed to be facing harsh living conditions here. The person is the photo is unrelated to the story. Gettyimagesbank|
South Korea will provide additional assistance to more than 500 North Korean defectors deemed to be facing harsh living conditions, the unification ministry said Tuesday.
The ministry said it conducted two rounds of surveys on the living conditions of North Korean defectors last year and found that a total of 553 of them need additional support to ease hardship in making ends meet.
Dire living conditions for some North Korean defectors came into the spotlight after a 42-year-old defector and her 6-year-old son were found dead in their apartment apparently due to starvation. The ministry did not provide details on how much and in what forms the help will be granted to the defectors.
North Korean defectors receive settlement support usually for five years from their arrival in the South, which includes helping them get homes, jobs and education.
Much of such support, however, is not available after the five-year period or if they land a job, a system that critics say could make those people with a lack of social networks and job stability vulnerable to harsh living conditions.
Currently, about 32,000 North Korean defectors are living in South Korea.
The ministry said that it will continue to conduct a survey on North Korean defectors' living conditions twice a year to provide support tailored to meet their needs and prevent a recurrence of such a tragedy seen last year. (Yonhap)