Event: Resettlement of North Korean Migrants in South Korea and Beyond: What Do We Know? 15 March 2017

Synergy Lecture

South Korea has long promoted a sense of ethnic and cultural homogeneity, but the macro economic and political changes and a substantial increase in the numbers of immigrants, both non-ethnic Koreans and ethnic Koreans from abroad, has irreversibly altered the cultural and demographic makeup of the country. These structural changes have precipitated a new discourse on Korean national belonging and “Koreaness.” But how, exactly, has the increase in immigrants – co-ethnics and non-ethnically Korean peoples alike – changed what it means to be Korean? What can the re-socialization experiences of new comers tell us about changes and variations in contemporary South Korean ethnic and national identity?

Given their unique status as Korean nationals who bear the right to citizenship in the Republic of Korea, there is much to learn from the resettlement experiences of South Korea’s 30,000+ North Korean migrants. Do the national identities of Korean migrants change upon resettlement? How much do their prior experiences matter, if they matter at all? Do migrants learn from their new environment in South Korea, or do they resist change? What can the resettlement of North Korean migrants elsewhere tell us? This conference seeks to provide answers – some concrete, others preliminary – to these questions.


Austin BuHeung Hyeon is a senior at Columbia University. He is originally from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, more commonly known as North Korea. Humbled and honored to be the first student of North Korean descent to attend Columbia, Austin carries a sense of responsibility in making known the resilient narrative of his fellow North Koreans. After graduating, Austin looks forward to playing a role in shaping policies related to NK affairs.

Christopher Green is the former Manager of Intl’ Affairs for Daily NK and a PhD candidate at Leiden University. His research interests span the socio-political economy, ideology and mediascape of the two Koreas. He has written for The Guardian and Al Jazeera, and interviewed by the BBC, Reuters, and CNN.

Steven Denny is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on the variations in South Korean political attitudes and social identities with a focus on intergenerational changes and the rise of a ‘new’ nationalism among young South Koreans. He is also a columnist for The Diplomat.

Jack Kim is the founder of HanVoice, Canada’s largest organisation advocating for improved human rights in North Korea. He holds a MSc in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School.

Associate Professor Yoonkyung Lee is a political sociologist studying labor politics, social movements, and political representation at the University of Toronto. Her research probes how socially marginalized actors such as labor mobilize to gain a social and political voice and how they interact with civil society and political institutions.

Sponsored by: VUSAC’s Academic and Professional Development Committee, Asian Institute, Centre for the Study of Korea, CASSU, ASSU, and UTSU

15 March at 16:00–18:00

The Cat’s Eye Student Pub & Lounge

150 Charles Street W, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1K9

*Please also register on our eventbrite page: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/resettlement-of-north-korean-defectors-in-south-korea-what-do-we-know-tickets-32198477513.

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