February 11, 2024
Rep. Ji Seong-ho of the ruling People Power Party in this undated file photo/ Newsis
Rep. Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean defector-turned-lawmaker of the ruling People Power Party, has proposed a bill calling for the designation of a commemorative day for North Korean defectors, his office said Saturday.
Ji submitted a revision to the North Korean Defectors Protection and Settlement Support Act, which aims to designate July 8 as a commemorative day for defectors from the North. The date is when the government resettlement facility for North Koreans, called Hanawon, first opened in 1999, his office said.
"Hanawon plays a decisive role in the resettlement of North Koreans, as the facilities provide education as well as policy support. We anticipate the bill could improve how we view and think of North Korean defectors, who are still socially vulnerable," Ji's office said.
During a Cabinet meeting last month, President Yoon Suk Yeol instructed the unification ministry to designate a day for North Korean defectors. The unification ministry has since been working on the order while lawmakers have submitted bills presenting their opinions on an appropriate date.
Last month, another defector-turned-lawmaker, Rep. Tae Yong-ho, also proposed designating Aug. 26 as the special day for North Korean defectors. The proposed date is when the Soviet Union officially closed off the 38th parallel in 1945, leading to the division on the Korean Peninsula.
Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun proposed designating July 14, the day when the defector settlement and support act was enforced in 1997.
South Korea has a longstanding policy of accepting any North Korean defectors who want to live in the South and repatriating any North Koreans who stray into the South if they want to return.
According to the data from Seoul's unification ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs, the total number of the North's defectors in the country is over 34,000. (Yonhap).