S. Korean gov't doing poor job of managing N. Korean defectors: lawmaker

SEOUL, Oct. 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is not keeping proper tabs on North Korean escapees, a local lawmaker said Monday, fueling criticism that policymakers are not interested in properly caring for these marginalized citizens.

Rep. Kim Sung-gon, of the main opposition Democratic Party, said as of this May 25,560 North Korean defectors have arrived in the country. The lawmaker said in a report released ahead of the unification ministry's parliamentary audit set for Tuesday, that of all defectors Seoul was aware of the whereabouts of 23,075 of them, with there also being discrepancies in the information held by different agencies.

"According to the ministry and the North Korean Refugees Foundation, 605 defectors have died since coming to the South, while the numbers tallied by the police claimed 625 were dead," the lawmaker said.

He added that the government reported that it could not account for 796 defectors, but closer inspection and cross-examination of other official data showed that 689 were abroad, with some 19 imprisoned for committing crimes and others were living under different addresses than those held by the authorities. The lawmaker said he even found seven people listed as being missing living under the same address that was known to the government.

"Keeping precise information is a critical part of establishing policies to help defectors assimilate into society," Kim stressed, adding that Seoul needs to come up with a better system to keep track of defectors.

Failure to provide assistance has been cited for crimes being committed by escapees, suicides and in some cases defectors returning to North Korea after becoming disenchanted with the South.

Since 2008 23 defectors have been handed down prison terms of more than one year, seven have sought asylum in a third country and nine have fled back to the North. Other reports showed that of the 49 people arrested for espionage in the last decade, 21 of them entered the country posing as defectors when they were in fact spies.

Meanwhile, the latest data showed that 71 percent of all defectors are women. Of the total, 44 percent are women in their 30s and 40s, and 65 percent of all defectors live in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon.

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