February 06, 2023

Of Caste and Community: Return and Re-migration of North Koreans

Can North Koreans going to Europe and America be given permanent domicile?

Until recently, South Korea has been the final destination for most North Korean refugees and other returning ethnic Koreans. However, the situation is changing in that an increasing number of individuals who have settled in the South are now leaving and heading for North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific Region. The forms and patterns which this new phenomenon of Korean remigration takes are diverse and, at times, antagonistic to the borders of nation-states.

Given that mass movements of people are always a dynamic phenomenon, intimately tied to the vicissitudes of global power, it is not surprising that, as the number of North Koreans in South Korea continues to grow, we are privileged to bear witness to a number of eccentricities emerging from within this migrant community. This article will briefly discuss concepts of caste acting to ‘push’ a growing number of North Koreans to leave South Korea, and then describe two such peculiarities, firstly, the relatively well-known ‘return migration’, and the newer ‘re-migration’.