Report: Defectors’ economic prospects on the rise

According to economic indexes, the income
level and employment rate of defectors from North Korea has increased
marginally.

According to a report released by the Korea
Hana Foundation in October titled, ‘Defector Wage Levels and Employment
Status,’ the amount of high salaried defector employees living in South Korea
is rising and the proportion of lower salaried employees has continued to
decline on a yearly basis.

In 2011, 13.8% of defectors earned a
monthly wage of between 1.5-2 million won (US $1,326-$1,768). After that, the
percentage increased to 18.2% in 2012, 23.6% in 2013, and 24.3% in 2014. In
2011, 25% of defectors earned between .5 – 1.0 million won a month (US $442 –
$884), followed by 22.7% in 2012, 20.9% in 2013, and 17.5% in 2014.   

Still, the average monthly salary of
defectors in 2014 was 1.47 million won, which is 24% less than the average
South Korean citizen’s monthly salary of 2.23 million won.  

However, the employment rate for defectors
did enjoy a continual rise.

According to sample surveys conducted in
the past five years, defector employment has risen steadily from 49.7% in 2011,
to 50% in 2012, 51.4% in 2013, and 51.7% in 2014.  

The weighted proportion of defector
employment (which considers mitigating factors and usually results in a higher
figure) was 53.1% in 2014. This is still 12.5% lower than the OECD standard of
65.6% and 7.7% lower than the national average of 60.8% employment.

When we break down the distribution of
defectors jobs between sectors, we see that 30.7% work in manual labor
professions, 22.4% work in the service industry, and only 12.4% work in
industries requiring highly skilled workers.  

There is a relationship between longevity
of stay in a job and employment rate/average salary.

The average defector stays at a job for
23.8 months, whereas the average South Korean stays for 67 months. The average
weekly work hours for a defector were 47, while the average was 44.1 for all
South Koreans.

There were some other figures released that
indicate signs of promise for defectors’ professional prospects.

Approximately 33% of defectors have a
special certificate or license: 30.6% of these certificates are related to
information or communication skills, 25.1% are for health or medicine, and 18%
relate to beauty, food, and other service sector related skills. This 33%
figure contrasts with the national average of 18.7%.  Defectors also
receive more professional training (88.3%) than the national average (77.5%).

An expert in defector integration insists
that, “As more defectors as employed, mutual understanding will increase.”
According to research performed on businesses that recruit defectors, 62.1%
were satisfied with their hires while only 11.6% were unsatisfied.  

According to Jo Byeong Gu, the North Korean
economic chair at the Korea Development Institute (KDI), “The lagging salary
figures and shorter average time spent inside a job reflects the deleterious
effects of lack of professional experience and special skills.”

When asked about the increase in average
income for defectors, Department Chair Jo said, “These days, defectors are
getting information through relatives about the conditions here in South Korea
before they even leave. This means we have defectors who arrive here who
already have a carefully thought out professional and academic plan. I also
think that as they settle and learn from one another, they have benefited from
the process of trial and error.

When asked about how defectors are
adjusting to the unique rigors of the South Korean marketplace, Department Head
Jo said, “We need to develop a higher degree of synthesis between what our
South Korean economy demands and what the defectors are hoping to achieve here.
The companies need to communicate better to defectors about exactly what sorts
of skills and experience the jobs require. We need to conduct research and
educate the key players about what sort of attitudes are optimally congenial to
a happy and productive work environment.”

Currently the largest single employer of
defectors is Songdo SE, an Incheon-based company that is affiliated with POSCO
and focuses on their building’s cleaning and management of the parking lots.

Kim Seong Geun, executive director at
Songdo SE, said, “Defectors have a strong appetite for work and strong
responsibility. However, it is sometimes difficult for them to integrate
themselves into the group. When employees have tight bonds, it makes it easier
for them to work harder, follow company goals, and get along easier. So we want
to work to make it easier for our defector employees to exist in harmony with
the rest of the work community.”

Director Kim continued, “Defectors need to
understand our society and our corporate environment a bit better. I believe
they need a diligent and sincere role model to inspire them. That would make a
big difference.”

In order to help people understand and
visualize this economic data and statistics, Korea Hana Foundation is working
with Samsung Economic Research Institute (SERI) to make graphics released
through their homepage, monthly email letters, and social networking services.

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