Story By: Marija Petrovska, Sub Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News
A 42-year-old defector from North Korea and her six-year-old son made it to South Korea only to now be found apparently starved to death in their flat.
They were reportedly found dead in their flat in South Korea – one of the richest countries in the world – with cops suspecting they starved to death as they were living in extreme poverty after having fled the dictatorship in North Korea, one of the poorest countries on the planet.
The bodies of the mother, surnamed Han, and her son Kim were found by the caretaker of their block of flats the in Bongcheon-dong area of the South Korean capital, Seoul, on 31st July, but they are believed to have died two months earlier.
The caretaker had gone into the flat after a plumber reported that there was a foul smell coming from inside. The family’s water supply had been cut off due to unpaid bills.
A police official from the Gwanak Police Station in Seoul said, “We did not see any signs of murder or suicide. We are waiting to get the autopsy results from the National Forensic Service.”
The news has raised questions about the level of state support offered to defectors, according to local media.
Although the police are still investigating the case to find out what led to the death of two North Koreans, they have reason to suspect that the family starved to death because there was no food supply in the house.
In addition, Kim’s monthly rent and gas bills were reportedly more than a year overdue. The mother and son were reportedly living in extreme deprivation and poverty.
Han reportedly reached South Korea with her Korean-Chinese husband in 2009. After their son was born, they moved to China. However, her marriage did not work out and after divorcing her husband, she and her son Kim moved to seek solace in South Korea last year.
She reportedly could not find work to support herself and her little boy. There is a widespread stereotype in South Korea that North Korean defectors are lazy, ignorant, alcoholism-prone and a burden on the welfare state.
Due to the difficulties they face, defectors in South Korea are entitled to subsidies from the government, but it is said to be extremely hard for them to assimilate into the South’s very contrasting society.
A government official stated that an attempt had been made to reach the mother by phone to provide assistance when they first moved to their current flat, but nobody answered. No subsequent calls or attempts to contact them were made, according to local media.
A unification ministry official stated that the government plans to take adequate measures to help North Korean defectors by properly dealing with such “blind spots” where they do not receive much-needed support.
According to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the United Nations, South Korea is one of the richest countries in the world. based on GDP, ranking 11th, just after Canada, while North Korea is one of the poorest, ranking 115th between Botswana and Laos.
Life expectancy in South Korea is 82 years, according to the World Bank, while in North Korea, it is just 71 years. According to the World Health Organization’s latest comprehensive data from 2000, South Korea ranked 58th worldwide in terms of healthcare, while North Korea ranked 167th.
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