Psychiatry Investig.  2008 Mar;5(1):1-13.

Divided Countries, Divided Mind 1: Psycho-Social Issues in Adaptation Problems of North Korean Defectors

Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. skmin518@yumc.yonsei.ac.kr

Abstract

A review of studies on the adaptation problems of North Korean defectors in South Korean society and studies of people's adaptation to political and cultural changes in other countries suggests that similar adaptation problems may occur in the process of and after unification. Defectors have various adaptation problems and some of them have psychiatric disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The reasons for this were revealed to be the difference in the culture and personality between South and North Korea, which have developed for the last 60 years without any communication with each other, in spite of their common racial and cultural heritage. Economic factors including the lack of skills and knowledge for working at industrialized and competitive society like South Korean society, also aggravate the severity of such adaptation problems. Research on defectors' adaptation problems and on the differences in the culture and mentality between North and South Korea can provide useful information on what kinds of problems may arise during the process of and after unification and what should be done to achieve mutual adaptation and harmonious and peaceful unification.

Keyword

North Korean defectors; Korean unification; Culture; Personality development; Adaptation; Mental health
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