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Migration Experiences of North Korean Refugees: Survey Evidence from China

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Author Info

  • Yoonok Chang

    ()
    (Hansei University, Foreign Language Education Center, Department of Graduate Education)

  • Stephan Haggard

    ()
    (University of California, San Diego Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies)

  • Marcus Noland

    ()
    (Peterson Institute for International Economics)

Abstract

Chronic food shortages, political repression, and poverty have driven tens of thousands of North Koreans into China. This paper reports results from a large-scale survey of this refugee population. The survey provides insight not only into the material circumstances of the refugees but also into their psychological state and aspirations. One key finding is that many North Korean refugees suffer severe psychological stress akin to post-traumatic stress disorder. This distress is caused in part by their vulnerability in China, but it is also a result of the long shadow cast by the North Korean famine and abuses suffered at the hands of the North Korean political regime: first and foremost, perceptions of unfairness with respect to the distribution of food aid, death of family members during the famine, and incarceration in the North Korean gulag, where the respondents reported witnessing forced starvation, deaths due to torture, and even infanticide and forced abortions. These traumas, in turn, affect the ability of the refugees to hold jobs in China and accumulate resources for on-migration to third countries. Most of the refugees want to permanently resettle in South Korea, though younger, better-educated refugees prefer the United States as a final destination.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Peterson Institute for International Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number WP08-4.

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Date of creation: Apr 2008
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Handle: RePEc:iie:wpaper:wp08-4

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Keywords: North Korea; China; refugees; migration;

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Cited by:
  1. Haggard, Stephan & Noland, Marcus, 2010. "Reform from below: Behavioral and institutional change in North Korea," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 133-152, February.
  2. Noland, Marcus & Haggard, Stephan, 2010. "Political attitudes under repression: evidence from North Korean refugees," MPRA Paper 21713, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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