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Tags: Koreas | defectors | service | matchmaking

NKorean Defectors Use Matchmaking Services

Tuesday, 09 February 2010 09:27 PM EST

After three years living alone in South Korea - paranoid and scared to talk to anyone - North Korean defector Kang Ok Sil decided she'd had enough. She wanted to make a real effort to settle in her newly adopted country. She decided to marry a South Korean man.

"Life was difficult. I didn't know how things worked and I was lost," recalls Kang, who escaped to South Korea in 2002 via Thailand. "I realized that [marrying a South Korean] was the fastest way to create a new life."

Kang, 40, is happy with her choice - so happy, in fact, that she now helps her husband Hong Seung Woo with the matchmaking agency he runs to connect North Korean women and South Korean men.

Hong opened the business in 2006, a year after he and his wife were married. As of last September, there were officially over 17,000 North Koreans living in South Korea, triple the number from 2004, according to the Unification Ministry, the government agency in Seoul in charge of North Korean affairs.

Almost 80% of North Koreans defecting today are women. "This is a shortcut for their adaptation," says Kang.

The couple's agency, Nam Nam Buk Nyo, a name taken from a traditional Korean proverb saying that handsome men are from the South and beautiful women live in the North, has matched 250 women like Kang with South Korean husbands in four years.

Hong says there are at least nine other similar agencies operating around the country, most of them established in 2008, and he estimates about 1,000 similar matches have been made.

Until recently, most North Koreans landing in the South, like Kang, had little or no contact with the outside world before they left home.

Figuring out how to integrate into the fast-paced, capitalist world of Seoul can take years. Although the two Koreas share a history and some cultural values, North and South Korea have been divided since the 1950-53 Korean War.

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Tuesday, 09 February 2010 09:27 PM
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