'Traversing': familial challenges for escaped North Koreans
Authors: Lim, H.
Journal: Journal of Refugee Studies
Publisher: Oxford University Press
This research contributes to the development of migration theories by examining the challenges and opportunities faced by UK-resident refugees and asylum seekers from North Korea in maintaining transnational family ties. The findings are drawn from life history interviews with 14 defectors. I analysed the data using thematic analysis. The research reveals that some of the defectors actively rely on social media to maintain their relations with family members who are scattered outside North Korea, while many others are faced with extreme familial challenges fraught with tensions and anxiety over the safety of their relatives who remain in the totalitarian state. In light of the prevalence of step-wise migration for the defectors and their families across multiple nation-states, which largely entails perilous journeys from China (after years of illegal stay) to South Korea via third countries, such as Laos and Thailand, the paper proposes the concept of ‘traversing’ to describe the strenuous transnational familial experiences of North Korean escapees. I argue that owing to their unique circumstances, researching the transnational familial relations of forced migrants is highly complex and it requires new conceptualisation going forwards: instead of assuming transnational migrants have free access to their home countries, it is important to consider the interconnectedness between sending and host societies in co-constituting transnational family justice.