Gender and Migration from North Korea

Erin Engstran, Caitlin Flynn, Meg Harris
Content Type
Journal Article
Woodrow Wilson School Journal of Public and International Affairs
Issue Number
Publication Date
Spring 2020
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
Women make up more than 80 percent of North Korean migrants to South Korea. This paper provides a gendered analysis of their migration and offers recommendations to address the systematic oppression and abuse of North Korean migrant women and girls. Gendered human rights abuses and societal shifts in gender roles due to famine contributed to women leaving in record numbers. On the journey, often via China, women face human trafficking fueled by China’s skewed sex ratios, sexual violence, and the threat of extradition back to North Korea where defectors are imprisoned, tortured, or killed. Even those who successfully complete the journey suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, discrimination, and difficulty adjusting into South Korean society. Interventions and policies must acknowledge the gendered dimension of migration to effectively address the harm North Korean women and girls experience.
International Relations, Gender Issues, Human Rights, Migration, Women, Refugees, Gender Based Violence , Human Trafficking
Political Geography
China, South Korea, North Korea, Asia-Pacific