Desertification of the Soul in Seoul

There’s an old saying in the Buddhist philosophy that aptly describes everything that happens. It’s simply three words repeated in order to teach a principle- `Thus, Thus, Thus.’
Everything that happens now occurs because of circumstances beforehand. Now, I’m no Buddhist but I like that little truism as it also reminds me that we make the future world what it shall become with our actions now.

Most of us would like to be able to say that we contribute to the betterment of the peoples on planet earth but it’s hard to see our actions having a positive effect on anything outside our immediate circle of influence. My great burgeoning realization of the last year or so is that things are moving fast- literally moving at a pace we’re not readily prepared for; that is to say, the developed world is not fully aware of what’s happening in North East Asia because there are too many other negatives to consider right now.

At the root of the dilemma I’m talking about here the culprit interestingly is information itself; or to be more precise what the free flow of information is creating now. In a nutshell, the increasing flows of information have unleashed a global trait amongst us- a common goal where people desire more.

No, this is no rehashed rant from a champagne socialist decrying the virtues of capitalism; it’s simply an awareness of what’s coming to this region in the next few years. There’s very little thought going around about what is going to eventuate no matter what idiot policies are put in place to prevent an escalation of the trend.

Fact- Every week on planet Earth some 1.3 million people move from the country into the city.

They do this because the city offers more- more choices, more opportunities and an increased capacity to earn more money.
By 2030 the U.N. predicts that over 61% of humanity will live in cities with a further 20% in less dense urban areas.

The rule of thumb dictating which peoples are more likely to up and move to the big smoke is really a very simple swathe-cutting observation: Wherever there is a self awareness of having or being `less,' people will move to a place that offers more.
So why is this simple tit-bit of info so potentially worrisome? Answer-Because of the darkness of North Korea.

In the case of the great North Korean gulag nation, the state once had a simple way of preventing its citizens from recognizing that there was more out there- a blanket ban on any external source of information entering N.K. This enforced ignorance was and still is maintained by some of the cruelest punishement and torture that any dictatorship in recent history has been able to dream up. But here’s where things get sticky for the world now: The genie is out of the bottle.
Rumors of freedoms and illegal radios and even video tapes of South Korean TV dramas have filtered out across the North, permeating into just about everywhere except the most brutal gulags.

Lamenting the fact that North Koreans have gained access to information is neither productive nor just. No, we needn’t scream the “North Koreans are coming!” in a fearful tone either.
They’re coming because they know; the greater the flow of information into the North, the greater the exodus out of the North.

How then do the nations of the world deal with a new diaspora?

According to the unwritten laws of South Korea’s pet Kaesong project, keeping the gulag state alive guarantees cheap slave labor. According to the most ruthless players in the South Korean business world `it’s either cope with some 20 million possible refugees or keep the fences up and the brutal dictatorship alive in the North’ in order to stem the tide of refugees.

The same greedy South Korean bosses also tell us that “the workers can earn more in Kaesong than in the rest of N.K.” Wow! When they spin it like that they make it sound enticing.

The reality is that the inmates of N.K. are forced to work at Kaesong because they’re all inmates of a giant internment camp. That’s hardly a fair choice- choose to starve because of the states incompetence or choose to be a slave laborer working in lousy circumstances rather than die.

When faced with a choice like that you might well opt for the Kaesong work camp if you were in their shoes but there is a third option. The third way is to bravely risk death while nobody else helps.

So, who are the North Koreans that risk death to defy the evil of Kim Jong Il’s dictatorship and the associated evils offered by the Hyundai group in N.K.? Well, they’re the defectors.
So far more than 400,000 Northerners have risked their life to defect and this is where things are going to get a whole lot more complex very soon.

Based on the example set by the rest of the human family in the under developed world, as more North Koreans learn of the outside world, MILLIONS more are going to flee the gulag state.
They’re going to run because even if the monthly salary at Kaesong was doubled or even quadrupled, North Korea itself is extremely underdeveloped.

Yeah, obviously Hyundai's pet Kaesong slave project isn’t going to double wages because Hyundai is all about maverick corporate greed attempting to manipulate everything it possibly can regardless of the victims. Because there's no long term hope other than the daily struggle for survival, more defectors are coming- ready or not.

There are now some 8,900 defectors that have made it to the relative safety of South Korea. No longer do they receive lump sum payments for living upon arrival here. They get a small kind of dole payment and maybe receive the help of an NGO if they are lucky...or perhaps that should be unlucky as I am learning.
Usually, they escape through China which is a nightmare where they live in constant fear of being traded to the police.

Other than personally boycotting the games in China I (and perhaps you) can’t really do much to persuade the Chinese to be less rigid with defectors for the Chinese answer is to send them back to NK so they can be shot.

Seeing as how China helped create the reign of the Kim’s in NK, the Chinese must bear some responsibility for the escaping Northerners- isn't that fair?

As for South Korea, I have tried to do something because I hate, no, make that despise writers/celebrity anchors and any kind of critic that uses available media to attack…and then they do nothing. The world needs less wind bags and more doers.
So, simply being ticked off with the state of affairs domestically I tried to create a knowledge and awareness of the fact that there are good people who happen to be defectors that are willing to work if bosses in the South will just offer some training and understanding.

I approached a friend that manages an Outback Steakhouse and gradually over time, convinced him into giving some defectors the chance to interview for a regular job. The Outback in Korea is a phenomenon- of the 140 or so stores outside the U.S., over 70 are based in the Republic of Korea. Their success here is due to a shared management and ownership system that rewards work. Even the most humble waiter or waitress can boost sales by simply smiling and being courteous- the waiters themselves are then rewarded for their increased sales/efforts.
It’s a perfect system to teach a new defector to the South what is arguably the only real virtue of capitalism- REWARD FOR ONES INDIVIDUAL EFFORT!
I can say that without fear of coming on like a walking advert for this or any franchise chain because many of the defectors in Seoul are not accustommed to the concept of money and working for money. In the Nth they would turn up to an alloted field and then sit there the whole day doing nothing then go home and recieve a monthly wage or food. They escaped when the money and the food ran out and now have some dificulty understanding reward for effort.

It took a long time to convince the manager but finally after much discussion he agreed to interview eager defectors that want to work so long as they met the standardized criteria for selection that applies to all new employees -a high school education and willingness to work and learn. What’s more, the Republic of Korea Government offers a 50% subsidized wage for employers for the period of one year to enthuse businesses to take on defectors.
Everybody wins…or so I thought.

My next task was to find some defectors in that applicable 21-29 year old age category that are looking for an opportunity. More often than not things are not what they'd hoped for in Seoul and the defectors that come here are often manipulated by unscrupulous managers.
I know a few defectors here but they're not in the right age group.

With the advice of a friend that is married to a defector who has been through the whole freakin nightmare here, I approached a recommended NGO that supposedly helps defectors in South Korea.

Well, it’s now been over 3 months and not a single defector has been forthcoming to take up a job even though my manager friend at the Outback has promised any defector that is recruited anonymity, workplace safety, training and an equal wage.

And why has the plan been so coolly received by the people that need opportunity? Well, every time I’ve talked with the NGO I’ve been told that “The defectors don’t want the work because they believe that they deserve the Govt subsidy and a regular wage”- at least that’s what the NGO is telling me.

There’s no way the subsidy can be allotted on top of a full wage, yet the NGO keeps trying to barter with me (what, like I set Sth Korean Govt policy).

The NGO has even started trying to compromise through me to get the restaurant to pay 70% of a full wage while the Gov’t still pays the full 50%; it’s obvious the Sth Korean NGO want to fudge the numbers and I refuse to let them play those games- I don’t want to end up looking corrupt nor do I want to go to jail for trying to create opportunity through understanding. Every time I see my manager friend from the restaurant now he asks if `there’s anyone keen to interview?' I shrug in response and don’t let on that I hitched my wagon to an NGO I don’t trust.

The NGO won’t explain or teach `their' defectors that this is the same wage that Southerners are getting. I’m starting to recognize that the NGO is in fact making the defectors reliant on them.
When you think about it, the NGO exists because of the defectors…there are Non Governmental Organizations and then there are No-Good Opportunists wanting to profit as a `charity' it seems. I suppose it's my own fault because the South Korean concept of church is all about professional paid ministers- it's the family business for the ministers or pastors. Yeah, this is a Korean Christian NGO.

Anyway, regardless of these negatives that are stacked up on all fronts it seems, more defectors are coming; millions more will risk their lives to have something more than indentured servitude.
What the world needs now is recognition that we can’t keep people in the dark forever and neither can we profit from their slavery.

South Korean businessmen, so eager to make money from slaves while dressing it up as the only alternative have their 30 pieces of silver and will remembered as such for eternity.

Oh, there’s no doubt that the South Korean bosses who enter Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea and use the slaves there will get very rich. They can then buy a new BMW and drive it out of the showroom where it will glisten for a day then turn that horrid yellow dust color overnight.
Desertification blows a scornful wind upon all glistening things in this region; that’s somehow fitting for China and South Korea where desertification of the Soul is rampant. *for queries on NK defectors or links contact Alex at

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