Park Won-yeon, a lawyer for North Koreans

Members of the Unification Law Policy Research Association take a picture after the third academic forum on Unification Law on Nov 10, 2018

Members of the Unification Law Policy Research Association take a picture after the third academic forum on Unification Law on Nov 10, 2018

A growing number of North Koreans who left the native country to settle in South Korea and started a new life are suffering from fraud in South Korea. North Koreans in South Korea are called by several names: compatriots, North Koreans, North Korean defectors, Sattermin, etc. The definition of North Korean Defectors literally means traitor, defector, and refugee; while Sattermin means “people who have begun life on new ground.” As of March, 30,704 people have settled and lived in South Korea.

 

Sattermin, the people who started their lives in the new land
Among them, fortunately, some North Koreans came to South Korea with their families but there are also many who live alone without even bringing a picture of their relatives. Moreover, not all North Koreans who have settled in South Korea carry on a “rosy life” in the country. While there are North Koreans who are building up their living bases in various fields as doctors, civil servants, and human rights activists, many people spend their days in disheartening losing momentum for a new life after being swindled.

 

“The legal problems that North Koreans face in South Korea can be divided into two groups: some issues happen only to North Koreans and some others can be faced by everybody” declared Park Won-yeon, a 41-year-old lawyer who has helped many North Koreans. Park Won-yeon serves as vice chairman of the North Korean Refugees Law Support Committee (Chairman Tae Won-woo) under the Korean Bar Association (Chairman Lee Chan-hee). He is also the chairman of the Unification Law Policy Research Association which is a private organization. Most North Koreans suffer from difficulties because they are not familiar with South Korea’s capitalist market structure and laws, Park added. According to him, the legal difficulties often faced by North Koreans are related to the cost of brokers, insurance-related issues, damage to fraud cases, assault cases, drugs and prostitution, and criminal crimes.

 

Here goes a part of the interview with Park Won-yeon at his office in Seocho-gu, Seoul, on July 10.

Park Won-yeon at his office in Seocho-gu, Seoul

Park Won-yeon at his office in Seocho-gu, Seoul

Please introduce the Committee on North Korean Refugees Law Support.

As a special committee in 2014, the KBA formed a committee to support North Korean defectors in dealing with legal issues and it has been in charge of legal counseling and legal structure for North Koreans living in South Korea.

After signing a MOU with Wooridul school on July 1, 2019, Mr. Park(L) takes a picture with Mr. Yun, the president at Wooridul school, one of the schools in which North Korean students attend.

After signing a MOU with Wooridul school on July 1, 2019, Mr. Park(L) takes a picture with Mr. Yun, the president at Wooridul school, one of the schools in which North Korean students attend.

Why did you become interested in providing North Koreans with legal aid?

I`ve been interested in the unification of Korea since my youth. After going to the law school in 2009, I organized a legal and policy research group with friends to prepare for unification. I realized that helping North Koreans to live a stable life was one of the most significant ways to lead to unification. Then I became a lawyer and I learned that legal help is very important for North Koreans; in fact, I heard about many legal difficulties they faced in South Korea such as fraud damage and insurance-related issues. That’s why I’ve come to engage in legal counsel to help them.

Which problems do North Koreans usually face?

The legal difficulties that many North Koreans face in recent years are various including the cost of brokers for escaping, insurance-related disputes, fraud damages, assault, drugs, and prostitution.

Is there any story you remember in particular?

In these days, I am dealing with an open case. The defendant “A” was indicted by the prosecution on charges of violating the “Law on North Koreans Settlement Support.” This person came to South Korea after many efforts of escaping but was not protected by the South Korean government because he was treated as a Chinese citizen instead of being recognized as a North Korean. His son, wife and other family members have escaped with his help and they are living in South Korea as South Koreans. However, he was not recognized as a North Korean due to several problems. To help A, the KBA, the North Korean Refugees Law Support Committee, and the Unification Law Policy Research Association went on a free suit with about 10 lawyers. As a result, we achieved a triumph of acquittal in the first trial. We are waiting for the verdict of the Appeal Court’s ruling.

“I hope North Koreans live happily in South Korea. It is important to find realistic alternatives to settle down stably before anything else”, Park Won-yeon said at the end of the interview.

 

By Lee Jeong Cheol, reporter for The AsiaN

 

 

 

 

Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » appearance » Widgets » and move a widget into Advertise Widget Zone