Value Systems and Adaptation: A Typology of North Korean Defectors
The total number of North Korean defectors living in South Korea topped 33,247 in 2019. Yet research finds that many are experiencing difficulties adapting to South Korean society. This study, based on a survey of 1,010 defectors, outlines a new typology of the value systems of North Korean defectors. Using a combination of factor and cluster analysis, we identify five major groups of North Korean defectors: (1) nation-oriented authoritarians, (2) community-oriented materialists, (3) family-oriented traditionalists, (4) conservative entrepreneurs, and (5) individualist conservatives. We show that value orientations are associated with distinctive political views and have demonstrable effects on adaptation and life satisfaction levels, with conservative entrepreneurs faring best. Although all groups adapt reasonably well to operating in a very different political and economic system and in their personal lives, defectors report significant problems at the social level, particularly in the form of discrimination. These findings suggest that more ‘customized policy’ be developed and implemented for North Korean defectors which ultimately helps them adjust more smoothly to South Korean society.
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