February 21, 2024

Why North Koreans Won’t Be Fleeing South After Unification

During crises, most people survive by staying in their country of origin

In the event of unification or collapse of the North Korean government, the common line among most scholars is that hundreds of thousands of North Koreans will flee southwards in an attempt to join South Korea's modern society, find new jobs, and escape the last remaining signs of the Kims. But South Korean researcher Song Young Hoon thinks differently, suggesting that in the event of sudden change we can expect many North Koreans to stay put, pointing out that in the event of contemporary global crises, most people survive by staying in their country of origin, rather than fleeing.

Focusing much of his work on the attitudes of South Korean citizens towards North Korean immigrants, Song's research provides rarely talked about context to the difficulties encountered by defectors attempting to build new lives in the ROK. Rather than suggesting more needs to be done to get South Koreans to adapt better to the presence of increasing numbers of defectors, Song suggests it is the North Korean immigrants who need to change and become "active citizens".