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tv   Asia Insight  PBS  April 22, 2015 6:30pm-7:01pm PDT

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♪ ♪ many north koreans have
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defected to south korea. their numbers now exceed 26,000. seoul has various measures in place to resettle defectors. it considers their acceptance as one way to unify the korean peninsula. despite those measures, defectors often face hurdles in the south. it's become so difficult that many have been moving on to other countries in recent years. [ speaking foreign language ] ♪ >> many defectors struggle hard to find their place in south korea, as their achievements in north korea aren't recognized.
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[ speaking foreign language ] ♪ while others try to persevere. this episode of "asia insight," focus on the north koreans who fled from their homes in search of a better life. >> from the south korean capital of seoul, there's a tv program that has been gaining popularity over the past few years. the show is produced by channel a, a capable network that
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services more than 15 million households. ♪ it's titled "now on my way to meet you." as soon as it began airing, the program caught the attention of the entire world, and not just south korea. most guests who appear on this talk show are women who escaped from north korea. ♪ >> initially the program helped divided families find each other from the other side of the 38th parallel. but when they aired a special episode on female defectors, it received high ratings and became the regular format. [ speaking foreign language ]
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>> these women's lives have changed dramatically since appearing on tv. [ speaking foreign language ] [ speaking foreign language ]
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at first, many women refused to regularly appear on the show, worried about public perception. but their feelings began to change when they read letters of encouragement from viewers. this lady is the oldest of the women and looks out for the others. lee was in the military in north korea. after leaving the military, she tried defecting nine times and finally succeeded on her tenth attempt. she was invited to the show after one of the producers saw her blog and read about her
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experiences. ♪ ♪ >> her dramatic experiences and bold character made her a big hit with viewers. [ speaking foreign language ]
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♪ she hopes her fame will provide some inspiration to other defectors. more than 1,500 defectors flee to south korea every year. the south korean government provides each of them with more than $18,000 over a five-year period to help them settle down and pay for housing and other costs. because the funds come from the taxpayer, some south korean citizens are not happy.
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[ speaking foreign language ] [ speaking foreign language ] >> the more than 26,000 north koreans now living in south korea reportedly have an average income of just half that of the
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average south korean $2,300 per month and 40% are unemployed. two years ago a survey was conducted by the seoul city government for defectors living in the capital. ♪ the survey revealed a very difficult life. so the city began providing daily necessities last year, as well as help in finding employment. [ speaking foreign language ]
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many elderly defectors live in this low-income public housing complex in seoul. rent for an 18 square meter room is normally $95. [ speaking foreign language ]
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cho turned 69 this year, she defected in 2004 after her husband died. she left north korea to see her two daughters who fled first and were hiding in china. the chinese government maintains ties with pyongyang and deports any north korea an defectors they find. after she saw her daughters, instead of staying with them, she sought asylum in south korea, as she didn't want to burden them further. [ speaking foreign language ] >> she now receives $350 in benefits, but no matter how much she economizes, her monthly expenses reach $300, so she must earn money to cover anything more than the very basics.
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>> defectors often have very few trusted friends and no savings. their work experience in north korea is deemed useless. she says some of her friends have been moving on to other countries. [ speaking foreign language ]
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>> but she decided to stay, because one of her daughters also sought asylum in south korea. she began taking on new work, in addition to her work at home. such as selling scrap metal. her daughter married a south korean man and gave birth to a son last year. ♪ she gains motivation by reminding herself that if she works harder, at least she can buy her grandson some candy. [ speaking foreign language ]
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once she began working outside her home, she made many acquaintances. recently she's even made south korean friends who bring scrap metal for her to her house. many north koreian defectors face financial difficulties. this man who defected four years ago has had many job interviews to land a stable job, but now he's losing hope. [ speaking foreign language ]
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>> after arriving in south korea, defectors realize there's a vast gap between what they dreamed for, and reality. some flee to other countries, pretending to be refugees seeking asylum.
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one man was caught and deported from australia, with his entire family. [ speaking foreign language ]
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♪ >> this film depicts oppressed christians in north korea. [ speaking foreign language ] >> the filmmaker is a man who defected to south korea 11 years ago. oh was a press officer in the north korean military, he's been producing plays to inform people about live in the north. he's also an active journalist, reporting on the struggles other
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defectors experience. [ speaking foreign language ] north and south koreans distrust each other. the divide between the two peoples has widened over the 60
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years since the korean peninsula was split. reconciliation is a difficult process. this general hospital in seoul is taking on a new challenge. it opened a support center and counselling room for defectors. north koreans have a distinct accent that makes it difficult for them to relay subtle nuances to south korean doctors. so the center helps with communication and allows defectors to talk about their personal issues. the center was founded by a group of south koreans and defectors to help others. imu who works as a counsellor here is also a defector. [ speaking foreign language ]
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>> around 20 people visit and gather at the center every day.
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it's been open for a year. sometimes defectors bring their favorite north korean dishes. they enjoy talking about their homeland together. [ speaking foreign language ] ♪ >> these defectors cannot easily return home to north korea unless the political situation changes. but they have more freedom to choose how to live their lives now. the woman who became popular on the tv show met a south korean
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m man. he's been an immense source of support for her, and they got married seven years ago. when they got married, she told her husband about her tragic life. the punishment she received when how she and her daughter were trafficked during their escape and got separated. [ speaking foreign language ]
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>> when the two first met, lee was unable to recover from the grief of losing her child, and the awful things she experienced in north korea. ♪ ♪ he was the one who suggested she write about her experiences on a blog. with his encouragement, she began describing and sharing her painful memories. however, it was too agonizing to write about her daughter at first. [ speaking foreign language ]
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>> she has done everything she can to find her child, but has no idea where she is. since before appearing on the tv show, she has been doing volunteer work.
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she got together with other defectors to take care of the elderly who are living alone or in nursing homes. here there is no discrimination between north and south koreans. everyone supports each other. [ speaking foreign language ] ♪ ♪ >> no matter how busy she gets, she plans to carry on her volunteer work until she's too weak to continue.
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[ speaking foreign language ] >> one people, two countries. each of them has its own interests and policies. perhaps one day, their paths will merge. ♪ ♪
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. "newsline." it's thursday, april 23rd. i'm catherine kobayashi in tokyo. leaders from asian and african nations are calling for better coordination in fighting terrorism and poverty. they're gathered in indonesia's capital for the asian african summit. japan's prime minister shinzo abe is among the attendants and he gave hints about a speech he plans to deliver to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of world war ii. nhk world's mayaki ambe reports. >> reporter: in a speech, abe referred to the remorse for the country's actions during world war ii.

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