3 in 7 women from North choose South Korean husbands
SEJONG — South Korea is home to about 35,000 defectors from North Korea. Recent government agency data revealed sharp gender disparities in their spouses’ countries of origin.
The analysis concerns country of origin only, regardless of whether the defectors’ spouses have acquired South Korean citizenship.
According to Statistics Korea and the Korea Hana Foundation, at least 3 out of every 7 female married defectors — 43.3 percent — had South Korean-born spouses as of 2019.
The next most numerous group, 28.6 percent, were married to Chinese-born men. Only 27.4 percent of married female defectors were married to other defectors or to men still residing in the North. Women married to men born into other nationalities accounted for 0.7 percent of the total.
The situation was very different for male defectors. Of the married men in the group, nearly 9 out of 10 — 88.6 percent — were married to other North Korean defectors or to women still residing in the North.
While 5.8 percent of men from the North were married to Chinese-born women, only 4 percent were married to South Korean-born women. Another 1.7 percent had spouses from other countries.
For both men and women from the North, 92.1 percent said their spouses resided in South Korea, while 4.3 percent lived in North Korea, 3.1 percent in China and 0.4 percent elsewhere.
The data also showed that many of the defectors were separated from their children. Though 76 percent said their children resided in the South, 32.8 percent said they had children in the North, while 3.3 percent had children in China and 3.4 percent had children in other countries.
Some of the totals exceeded 100 percent because some defectors had children both in the North and the South. There were also cases where defectors had remarried, either in the South or while staying in third countries during the defection process.
Of the female defectors, 20.5 percent said they had school-age children living in China as of 2019, and 8.8 percent had school-age children in North Korea.
In contrast, 26 percent of male defectors had school-age children in the North, and only 0.5 percent had school-age children in China.
Meanwhile, the data indicated that many of the defectors were having difficulty gaining positions as regular employees in the South.
While South Korea has posted low employment rates compared with other members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the rates are even lower for defectors.
South Korea’s overall employment rate stood at 60.8 percent in 2019, but the figure for defectors was 58.2 percent, Statistics Korea data showed.
Defectors who had resided in the South for less than three years were having more difficulty finding jobs. The employment rate for those with three years of work experience here was 48.2 percent.
In 2019, the average monthly wage earned here by salaried people from the North stood at 2.04 million won ($1,880).
Though South Korea’s gross national income per capita was $32,047 (34.69 million won) a year and 2.89 million won a month, defectors’ income was 850,000 won less per month.
The data also showed that half, 49.9 percent, of salaried workers from the North were paid less than 2 million won a month.
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