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Free plastic surgeries offered for N. Korean defectors Updated: 2016-04-22 22:00:38 KST

Scars, hair loss, and cigarette burns
Many North Korean defectors who have escaped to South Korea wear such wounds on their bodies, reflecting their perilous past lives.
The vivid scars add to the hardships of these defectors, most of whom have a difficult time blending into the South Korean society.

Such is the case of this defector, identified only by her surname Kim.

"When I first came to South Korea, I got a tattoo on my wrist to hide a blade scar. Now, I'm worried about rolling up my sleeves because people here look down on tattoos."

To help ease their pain one Seoul-based police chief launched the "Appearance Improvement Project", an initiative that aims at removing physical scars for free.

"I saw a number of North Korean defectors falling into depression because of their scars as their appearance makes it harder for them to settle in the South. I wanted to lessen their emotional pain by curing their physical scars."

The project began in 2014 through an MOU between the Yongsan Police Station in central Seoul and the Korean Association of Plastic Surgeons.
Since then, over eighteen-hundred plastic surgery clinics across the country have pitched in to provide scar removal surgeries and restoration of damaged body parts, completely free of charge.
Twenty-two defectors have completed their surgeries, and some 40 people are on the waiting list.

"If their wounds had been treated properly, they wouldn't have suffered as much. As South Korea has some of the world's best plastic surgery clinics and specialists, we hope to use our talent to help them adjust."

And Kim will hopefully, be able to begin her life anew.

"I'm really excited. I was always hiding my wrist, but after this surgery, I can be care-free."

"This project will be ongoing for years to come. Any North Korean defector in South Korea is eligible to sign up for a life-changing procedure that can go some way to healing physical and emotional wounds.
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News."
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