Childhood Experiences of North Korean Refugees at the Intersection of Disability and Refugee Status

  • Yosung Song Moravian college
  • Justin Freedman
Keywords: Refugee, disability, social embodiment, critical disability studies


The purpose of this paper is to examine how the intersection of disability and refugee is experienced by North Korean refugees during their childhood. A Critical Disability Studies theoretical framework is used to understand the interplay of social and embodied aspects of disability within the conditions faced by North Korean refugees across multiple borders and contexts. Data is reported from interviews with two teachers and eight young adults and students about their childhood experiences before, during, and after their journey to relocate in South Korea. We report findings of the violence that North Korean refugee children and adolescents experience and the structural, political, economic, and cultural conditions that shape North Korean refugee children’s access to rights, such as health care and education. Further, we highlight how identities, such as gender and ethnicity, impact the embodied experiences of North Korean refugee children, and their relationship to multiple nation-states.


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