North Korean defector-refugees are far more likely to stay unemployed or poor once settled in the South. Han Pil-soo, who arrived in Seoul in 2002 has defied these odds, building a sizable trading company that posted 25.9 billion won in sales in 2009 alone. Han runs Livinghom — an online shopping mall that sells a gamut of daily necessaries to a growing number of Chinese consumers who prefer South Korean products to local ones.
Han’s ultimate ambition is to hire “every North Korean defector in South Korea who has a family to feed”. His company, Hansung Trading Co. based in Seoul, already employs 37 former compatriots — over 80 percent of its entire personnel.
The idea for the business came from his years hiding in Northern China.
“I witnessed the people who wanted South Korean products when I was in China,” he said. “I knew that, considering the huge Chinese population, they would make a solid market for my future business.”
Han believes his fellow defector-refugees bear the potential to become the vanguards of reconstruction of North Korea.
“These people are our hope when North Korea someday collapses and needs good people to rebuild itself,” Han said in a telephone interview with Yonhap News Agency. “For now, the most rewarding part of my job is to teach my workers the business skills they’ll need.”