The Integration Experience of Co-Ethnic Migrants in their New Homeland: The Socio-Economic Integration of North Korean Refugees into South Korean Society

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It is argued that the socio-economic integration of co-ethnic migrants would be easier than that of other types of migrants in their new homeland because of the common ethnicity/nationality shared by these migrants and the local population. Not only do co-ethnic migrants share cultural heritage and speak the same language, but they also receive a wide range of generous assistance from the state, such as the immediate granting of citizenship rights, which distinguishes them from other types of migrants. However, the influx of co-ethnic migrants gives rise to the conflict between these migrants and the local population. In this case, the fact that both groups share ethnicity and cultural heritage, and speak the same language does not make the conflict easier. Consequently, this conflict might lead to the formation of separate identity for co-ethnic migrants, thereby aggravating ethnic segregation between co-ethnic migrants and the local co-ethnic population. My study is derived from my own fieldwork among North Korean refugees, who, in the aftermath of the North Korean economic crisis and political instability in the late 1990s, have continuously migrated from North Korea to South Korea. I attempt to analyze the integration experience of North Korean refugees in South Korean society.


Keywords: Integration of Co-Ethnic Migrant Immigration, Ethnicity, Identity, Conflict, North Korea, South Korea
Stream: Sociology, Geography
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Gae Hee Song

Ph.D student, Social Science Department, The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University
Syracuse, New York, USA

I have a MA from School for International Training (SIT) in the U.S. I am currently pursuing a Ph.D at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. Over the last few years, I worked as research assistant on projects, such as the nuclear non-proliferation of North Korea and the granting of immigrant naturalization/citizenship rights in Western Europe. I had also worked as research associate at Korea Merchant Banking Corporation, thus analyzing statistical data on companies and industries. In my dissertation, I attempt to analyze the South Korean resettlement policy and its impact on the resettlement and integration of North Korean refugees into South Korean society. In line with this, I have strong interests in immigration and integration of co-ethnic migrants related to ethnicity and identity, post-communist migration, legal status, state policy, and gender.

Ref: I08P0342