The Exploration On Traumatic Experiences Of North Korean Defectors

2817 words - 12 pages

North Korea is one of the few countries that maintain communist system in the world. After Kim Il-Sung died in 1994, who was a dictator for nearly 50 years, the North Korean government has lost its power on the people. Since then, communist system has collapsed and economic crisis has been aggravated. Also the food crisis in 1990s caused famine across the country. For these reasons, a lot of North Korean people have tried to escape from their home country or hide themselves in China. The number of North Korean defectors has been greatly increasing; those who settled in South Korea were estimated more than 15,000 in 2008; those who arrived in China reached over 100,000 (Goodfriends, 2000; ...view middle of the document...

, 2004). In addition, refugees are frequently faced with threats to their own safety or those of family members (Crowley, 2009). For example, 77% of 500 refugee children surveyed in Mozambique answered that they witnessed murders or massacre (Boothby, 1994). Moreover, a large number of children have had not only experiences of child soldier but also losses of family members, home, and friends.
The migration phase is explained as displaced period from home countries and transit or transitional placements (e.g., refugee camps or detention centers) (Lustig et al., 2004). Refugees are likely to have traumatic events such as witnessing violence or committing suicide and lack of adequate food, water, and health care (Lustig et al., 2004; Rothe et al., 2002). Also children are commonly separated from parents and caregivers during migration phase. This contributes to behavioral and emotional problems of children refugees (Crowley, 2009).
In the post-migration phase, persistent danger and unstable circumstances are removed from refugees. However, refugees are challenged to adapt to new belief systems, values, and sociocultural changes while they hold anticipation of a safe and prosperous life in a host country (Crowley, 2009). Resettled refugees feel grief, anger, survivor guilt, and ambivalence without connection with their own culture. During this period, refugee families without social support, should resolve confronted issues like learning a new language, meeting basic needs of a family, and adjusting to law and culture in a host country (Crowley, 2009; Lustig et al., 2004). On the other hand, refugee children come to a host country without guardian. Then, they should negotiate the legal system for their own rights without an adult (Lustig et al., 2004). Therefore, refugee children feel continuous stress caused by lack of resources.
Mental Health of Refugees
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], there were 16 million refugees, 26 million internally displaced people, and 12 million stateless people in 2007 (UNHCR, 2008). Refugees are defined as those who involuntarily leave their countries of origin where they are exposed to danger (Lustig et al., 2004). They are differentiated from immigrant populations who move to other countries voluntarily. For this reason, refugees often experience higher level of stress and difficulties in new societies than other migrant populations (Schweitzer, Melville, Steel, & Lacherez, 2006). Thus, mental health of refugees, which has been influenced by past experiences, is important for successful adaptation and settlement (Jeon et al., 2005; Cardozo, Vergara, Agani, & Gotway, 2000).
Silove (1999) documented mental health problems of refugees, including high levels of posttraumatic stress, anxiety, and depression and lesser extent of other mental health issues such as psychosomatic disorders and grief-related disorders. In a study on mental health of resettled Sudanese refugees,...

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