Statistics gathered in South Korea indicate that a startling number of defectors from North Korea end up taking their own lives. This is the darker side to the stories of those who flee their homeland.
Over the past ten years, 6% to 7% of defectors who’ve died have been suicides.
But this year, there’s been a big rise. According to the ministry, 14% of deaths among defectors have been suicides.
There are a number of factors involved. One is that the home they’ve left is close but unreachable. Another is that their new economic reality can be very different from the glamorized life portrayed in the South Korean soap operas smuggled into the North.
Defectors get three months’ training when they arrive but critics of the system say that’s not enough to learn new skills. Some Christian groups provide vocational training and say that what works best is training in simple but useful skills like making coffee to serve in a cafe.