South Korea builds new refugee centre for N Koreans

North Korean defectors during a 10-year anniversary celebration of the South Korean Hanawon resettlement facility on 8 July 2009 in Ansung, South Korea North Korean defectors are taught basic life skills at the education centre

South Korea is building a new facility to hold North Koreans arriving in the country, officials say.

Most defectors - who include economic migrants and political refugees - spend their first three months in a government centre known as Hanawon.

They are taught the skills they need in a capitalist country - such as how to work cash machines, or get a job.

Seoul says almost 3,000 North Koreans arrive each year and the current centre is danger of becoming overcrowded.

The government has already extended the time that new arrivals must spend in the facility from two months to three.

Senior staff at the centre say there is talk of extending it again.

The current facility has already been expanded, and now holds 1,000 people. The new centre will have room for 500 more.

"The current Hanawon facility is on the verge of being overcrowded," said Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo.

"We felt we wouldn't be able to provide systematic support for resettlement with only the current Hanawon."

According to the ministry, it will offer retraining programmes for new arrivals, to help North Koreans compete for jobs.

Fewer than half of all North Koreans find work in the South - and many who do end up in menial low-paid jobs.

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