Bryan Caplan  

North Korean Refugees and the Olympics

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I recently saw a bumper sticker that basically said that we should use the Beijing Olympics to shame the Chinese into releasing hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees. This seems like a worthy cause that even American opponents of immigration can support: All most of the refugees are asking for is to be deported to South Korea instead of their murderous homeland.

So what are the odds that shaming the Chinese government would actually work? And would the government of South Korea really take them all if China were willing?

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COMMENTS (12 to date)
mgroves writes:

Who are these immigration opponents, and why should they even enter into it?

Buzzcut writes:

South Korea doesn't want them. In fact, the South tacitly supports the North because it fears the collapse of that country like East Germany collapsed. They don't want to be another West Germany, which they see as having had a very difficult time with reunification.

The North Korean refugee issue is the reason that I really can't stand young South Koreans (I've done business there for 15 years). They put their own personal comfort above their Northern cousins (literally) well being.

Don writes:

But the most important question of all is: How do you fit all of that on a bumper sticker?

TGGP writes:

They put their own personal comfort above their Northern cousins (literally) well being.
Have you given all your money and possessions to the poor? I bet you put your comfort over the well-being of your countrymen.

N. writes:

First, you would have to shame the South Koreans into repealing the Sunshine Policy, which seems unlikely.

Buzzcut writes:

TGGP, they're LITERALLY their cousins. Not theoretically, as in your example.

And the poor in the US are quite different than North Koreans. We're not talking about single mothers, meth addicts, high school droppouts, or whatnot.

Dan Weber writes:

Does South Korea refuse to take in any refugees? Or do they just want to limit the number they take in per year?

TGGP writes:

Most of my own countrymen are not literally my cousins. Most North Koreans are not the literal cousins of most South Koreans.

Morgan writes:

"And the poor in the US are quite different than North Koreans. We're not talking about single mothers, meth addicts, high school droppouts, or whatnot."

Wow. Is that who the poor in America are? Have you ever actually met a poor person, or just heard about them on talk radio?

So, the natural state of people in the US is to be comfortably middle class or above except for those guilty of serious self-inflicted personal destruction.

That is truly an amazingly ignorant comment. Posted on an Economics blog no less. It really is astounding. Please tell me that you aren't an economist. You are a writer for shock talk radio? A policy consultant for the Bush administration? Ebeneezer Scrooge's Muse?

Who are the poor in America? Can anyone here help him with this?

Buzzcut writes:

Who are the poor in America?

The American born poor are largely people with poor impulse control:

1) high school dropouts
2) divorcees
3) single mothers
4) addicts

The fact is that high school grads who wait until marriage to have children have a negligible poverty rate.

In the future, I think that you will add:

5) people who retired too early and blew through their nestegg.

And of course you have recent immigrants, especially illegals.

Dan Weber writes:

The poor in America are vastly different from the poor in North Korea.

The poor in North Korea eat the bark off of trees to avoid starving to death. Not always successfully.

liberty writes:

The poor in the US really are (a) very well off compared to poor (or even compared to the rich) in actually poor countries and (b) very much able to do better for themselves if they really want to.

They own cars, televisions, washing machines, etc. They have twice or three times the income of the average person in a middle income country.

Some of the people who show up in statistics of "poor" are part-time workers or tips workers who are only poor on their tax returns. Others are transitional poor - between jobs or starting a business. Most of the rest are young or immigrants. Finally, of the actual long-term poor, you find single moms and drug-addicts and so forth.

But, I want to say something about South Korea.

(1) We saved their asses from North Korea - they could be starving and eating bark if it weren't for us.

(2) We ask them to save a few fleeing North Korean refugees who risked getting shot to flee and end up in a Chinese jail, just hoping for a chance at a normal life in South Korea, you bet your ass they should do it.

(3) If they don't we should suggest removing the rest of our troops and joining them in a "sunshine" policy of reunion with the North under Kim Jong Il.

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