Five-Year Old Orphan From North Korea Finds “New Life” in South KoreaBy Nathan Schwartzman Nov 24, 2008 3:07AM UTC
A judge in Seoul has ordered the Ministry of Unification not to deport a five-year old to China. The child entered South Korea two years ago with his mother, who was sent back to North Korea by authorities in South Korea. I think that bears repeating: two years ago, under an allegedly liberal administration, Korean authorities ripped apart a Korean family by sending the mother back to a near-certain death in a Stalinist labor camp. Then they took a look at the three-year old child they had just orphaned and decided it would be a great idea to ship him off to China. Fortunately his relatives in the South spent two years fighting the government in court.
Hwang is a five-year old child from North Korea who cannot remember his mother, who may or may not still be alive.
According to the terms of a judgment following an appeal to the Seoul Administrative Court (서울행정법원), the Ministry of Unification (통일부) will not deport him to China, will consider him a North Korean defector, and has paid six million won in settlement money as well as other costs.
In the five years since his birth Hwang has lived a life too miserable to understand or remember, and is now in the care of his 41-year old aunt, and attends a kindergarten and goes to the hospital to receive vaccinations as a citizen of the Republic of Korea.
He entered the country in 2006, when he was not recognized by the government as a North Korean defector. Two years later, on the 24th of last month, the Seoul Administrative Court ordered the government to consider him a North Korean defector.
Even so Hwang’s sad life without parents and without citizenship could have continued, but on the 19th the Ministry confirmed that he would be granted citizenship.
The Ministry worked hard to comply with the ruling.
From a humanitarian perspective Hwang is considered a North Korean defector, but from a citizenship perspective there may be various problems. It is difficult to investigate those who enter the country from China or other third-world countries and who, like Hwang, have no parents, and friction may develop between authorities in the separate citizenship and diplomacy spheres.
On the 23rd a representative of the Ministry explained the reason for the waiver. “The true relationship with his parents is unconfirmed, but without clear evidence the most important thing is that a further appeal would not be humanitarian.”
Mrs. Kim, the 38-year old mother of Hwang who lived in Hamgyeongbuk-do in North Korea, was repatriated to North Korea after escaping it in 1998, leaving behind her husband, who died in 2006.
Mrs. Kim lived in China with a Chinese-Korean woman also named Kim, and gave birth to Hwang in March 2003, but was then detained and repatriated to North Korea only to escape again to Mongolia and then South Korea, where she was again caught.
Since then mother and son have met opposite fates.
Mrs. Kim was imprisoned in China for a year, during which time Hwang was starved, but fortunately the Chinese-Koreans with whom his mother had lived kept him from being repatriated to North Korea by obtaining papers saying he was their son.
Hwang was brought to South Korea in August of 2006 by brokers hired by his mother’s sisters, who live in South Korea.
His aunt’s then collected money to bring his mother out of North Korea again, but last year his mother left China on a boat only to be caught again and repatriated to the North. They have not heard from her since. They have heard rumors she has been imprisoned in a camp for political prisoners, and do not know if she is still alive.
Mrs. Kim is the fourth of seven children, three of whom are political prisoners in North Korea and four of whom have settled in South Korea. Hwang’s elder sister and brother remain in the North.
The Ministry considered Hwang to Korea-Chinese because his mother had spent a long time, 1999 to 2006, living in China and was divorced when she became pregnant with him there, in 2002, but in a lawsuit his aunts argued that his father is North Korean.
The court heard and accepted evidence that his mother Mrs. Kim was in North Korea from March through July of 2002, and held that it was likely she became pregnant by her husband at that time and that Hwang should thus be considered a North Korean defector.
As a North Korean defector Hwang now must receive education for eight weeks at Hanawon, the facility for helping North Korean defectors adjust, but because he is so young he will simply be formally admitted and then allowed to stay in the care of his aunt.
His aunt Mrs. Kim cried as she said, “my sister in the political prisoners camp would be very happy to know that her sons are allowed to stay here. He was so young when he was taken from his mother, so it seems he never even thinks of her, it’s so sad, but at least I am going to take care of him as his mother.”
Already mother to a son and daughter, she added, “it’s very difficult having five mouths to feed but I’ve been able to do it so far and I have to keep on.”
“I guess it is his fate to live this way,” she said, and even when he asks about his mother he is expressionless. “Being young is not easy.”