Korea

Organized Panel Session

3 - Making "Democratic Citizens": Ideology & Citizenship among North Korean Refugees

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Park Tower 8216, Lobby Level

How does ideology shape views of democratic citizenship? This paper examines how North Koreans who have left their country of birth and resettled in a democratic society – in the US, South Korea, or elsewhere – view the ideological system that they left behind, and how their perceptions of North Korean ideology configure their views of democratic citizenship. It draws on official resettlement documents, texts from the “democratic citizenship” (minju shimin) classes taught to North Korean refugees and defectors upon arrival in South Korea, and firsthand interviews with North Korea-born individuals to trace how North Korean refugees and defectors view the differences between North Korean ideology and the norms of a democratic capitalist country, South Korea, in areas such as the constitution of political community, ideals of civic participation, and expectations around the provision of social welfare. The paper then compares these perceptions to those of North Korea-born refugees who have settled in two other democratic capitalist countries, the US and the UK.  Ultimately, it aims to shed light on both the official ideology of North Korea and the concept of “democratic citizenship” by examining them through the eyes of the individuals whose everyday lives have been profoundly shaped by how they negotiate the meaning of these concepts.

Sheena Chestnut Greitens

University of Missouri, Missouri

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