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Role of N. Korean defector-turned-entrepreneurs in S. Korea

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ArirangNews

Arirang News

As of last month, the number of North Koreans who defected to the South surpassed 30-thousand.
More than six-hundred of them started their own businesses here.
As Seoul and Pyongyang grow closer than ever before, they have the potential to play key roles in improving cross-border economic relations.
Ko Roon-hee gets us better acquainted with these entrepreneurs.
For Jeon Geum-ju, a North Korean defector-turned-entrepreneur, being busy at 6 AM is nothing new.
Jeon, who came to South Korea in 2010, owns a flower online shopping mall, and she often stops by this flower market in the morning to get the best possible merchandise for her customers.

"Today, I bought these flowers. In the winter, they usually cost about 15-U.S. dollars per bundle. However, I go them for only three dollars today. I think it's a good deal."

As a North Korean defector who settled in the South, she was especially interested in the recent developments in inter-Korea relations.
Jeon believes defectors who have found a new life by becoming entrepreneurs, like herself, can change the South Korean public's perception towards them and contribute in improving mutual understanding.

"Some North Korean defectors who started their own businesses were successful enough to be on television. I think defectors can build a more positive image by showing the South Korean public how they strive to make a living."

For Jeon, as well as many other North Korean defectors, the work of non-profit organizations is crucial, such as the Bridge International.

The CEO of this organization says they have an important role to play in the future…when the two Koreas prepare for economic cooperation.

"North Korean defectors who have their own businesses can play a big role in the future because they are the ones who know well about both Koreas' market economy. Also, successful entrepreneurs can help other defectors settle into new working environments. For example, they can give advice or even hire them."

The organization also believes South Korea can utilize the defectors when expanding the trade with China.

"Our company distributes dried fish and we get the products from China. I started the business in this field because I had experience communicating with Chinese traders in North Korea."

Some say it is too early to discuss economic cooperation between the two Koreas...as international sanctions against the regime are still widely in effect.
However, others say to achieve lasting peace on the Korean peninsula, efforts need to sprout from all levels of society, including defectors who are setting new lives for others like them to follow.
Ko Roon-hee, Arirang News.

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