Sunday, October 17, 2010

AFP reports on North Korean defectors caught up in insurance fraud

Agence France-Presse has an interesting article on folks from North Korea being targeted by insurance fraudsters:
North Korean refugees struggling to adapt to a bewildering new life in South Korea are increasingly getting sucked into insurance frauds as their first taste of capitalism.

Insurance scams have for years been common in the South, and fraudsters in recent years have targeted the refugees as sometimes unwitting accomplices.

"Sometimes defectors get involved because they don't know how the insurance system works. They just have no idea what they are doing is wrong," an official at the Hanawon resettlement centre told AFP. ...

Newly arrived refugees get government financial help but often must repay big debts to the brokers who arranged their escape via China.

This makes them susceptible to taking part in frauds, which focus on bogus medical insurance claims.

After the refugee has bought a private policy or enrols in a state scheme, or both, insurance company workers typically conspire with hospital administrative staff to issue fake certificates of treatment.

When a refugee has been reimbursed by the insurance company, and sometimes by the government, he or she hands over a portion to the accomplices.

"I received about three million won (2,700 dollars) and used the money to pay debts when I came to South Korea," one woman in her late thirties told the JoongAng Daily newspaper.
The article takes pains to depict the North Korean defectors as victims of this, a view I'm sympathetic to. After all, both survival in North Korea and the process of escape and then hiding in China would necessitate living by hook or by crook for many of them, and it may be hard to turn that off that attitude and behavior. An attitude of doing what you can to survive mixed with a perception drummed into their heads by the fraudsters that the only ones who get hurt are these big, bad corporations, and you've got an easy accomplice.

Sadly, I fear that this kind of thing looms large in any post-reunification future, as the two versions of Korea clash in ways we cannot even begin to fathom now.


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