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Unification ministry launches early warning system for defectors at risk

By Lee Minji

January 2, 2024

SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Yonhap) -- The unification ministry said Tuesday it has activated a comprehensive data system to better detect North Korean defectors going through difficulties and better provide necessary support.

The system allows officials from relevant organizations, such as the unification and labor ministries, as well as civic support groups, to access data on numerous indicators that signal possible crises in defector households, the ministry said.

The 39 indicators include overdue national health insurance and pension fees, as well as power and gas outages coming from failure to pay bills on time.

To prevent a potential breach of personal information, the ministry said the system offers varying levels of access to officials from different organizations.

The system is part of the government's wider plan to better support North Korean defectors who have settled in South Korea.

South Korea is home to more than 34,000 North Korean defectors, and the flow of defectors continues amid chronic food shortages and harsh political oppression in North Korea.

The number of North Koreans who arrived in South Korea hit a record low of 63 in 2021 as North Korea kept its borders closed to fend off the COVID-19 pandemic. This marks a dramatic decline from a record high of 2,914 in 2009, according to the ministry.




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