Family Migration Characteristics and Types of North Korean Defectors

북한이탈주민의 가족이주 특성과 유형

  • Chin, Meejung (Child Development & Family Studies, Research Institute of Human Ecology, Seoul National University) ;
  • Kim, Sangha (Child Development & Family Studies, Seoul National University)
  • 진미정 (서울대학교 아동가족학과/생활과학연구소) ;
  • 김상하 (서울대학교 아동가족학과)
  • Received : 2018.04.12
  • Accepted : 2018.06.06
  • Published : 2018.06.30


Objectives: This study explores the characteristics of family migration for North Korean defectors and classifies family migration by examining who initiated the migration and who followed. Method: We analyzed the family migration using detailed stories from fifty-five North Korean defectors who were interviewed between 2005 and 2011. Results: We found that 43 out of 55 cases were family migration and the remaining 12 cases were single person migration. We also found several characteristics typical of migration. First, family migration followed the process of step migration, which indicated a serial migration in numbers. Second, migration relied heavily on informal social networks. Finally, the process of earlier migration by North Koreans was incidental and unexpected; however, unexpectedness has diminished in recent migration. Looking at who initiated the migration, the most common type was 'mother-initiated' cases (14 cases) followed by 'child-initiated' cases (10 cases). The third most common type was 'mother-child accompanied' cases (7 cases). The migration process was various; however the most common type was when a married woman initiated the family migration process. This is most likely because married women have the responsibility to support families in the informal economy of North Korea. According to the range of family migrated, the most common type was 'nuclear-family only' cases (22 cases) followed by 'maternal extended family migration' cases (12 cases). Conclusions: The findings of this study provide information on the family dynamics of North Korean defectors.



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