Oct. 2 (UPI) -- A South Korean program that provides incentives for local businesses to hire North Korean defectors has been completely ineffective since it launched in 2000.
Deputy National Assembly Speaker Park Joo-sun said Monday the 17-year-old program has not had the desired results for South Korea policy toward defectors, local newspaper Maeil Business reported.
The program incentivizes businesses to hire resettled North Koreans by guaranteeing the South's unification ministry's "priority purchases" of the firm's products, should a business hire seven or more defectors, according to the report.
The unification ministry said there were "only two cases" of firms applying for qualification under the program.
The ministry also said only a "minority" of firms made products that qualify as "priority purchase items."
But Park, who explained the program's history to reporters on Monday, challenged the explanation from the ministry, News 1 reported.
"The answer from the unification ministry is a lie," Park said. "The real story is the unification ministry did not promote the program."
The South Korean lawmaker said employment is a critical issue for the more than 30,000 resettled North Koreans in the South.
New measures in promoting and publicizing the policy is needed, Park added.
North Koreans in the South have said life in the country is difficult for economic and other reasons.
A middle-age defector who recently spoke to UPI said the social environment in the South is the greatest challenge.
Other defectors have demanded Seoul repatriate them to the North.
Most defectors do not return to the North or express a desire to return to the Kim Jong Un regime, citing economic hardships and lack of freedoms.