Psychiatry Investig.  2008 Dec;5(4):213-220.

Traumatic Experiences and Mental Health of North Korean Refugees in South Korea

Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Department of Medical Education, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. wtjeon@yume.yonsei.ac.kr
  • 2Korean Unification Studies, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 3Department of Psychology Counseling, Seoul Cyber University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 4Department of Psychology, Chungbuk National University, Cheongju, Korea.

Abstract


OBJECTIVE
This study was conducted at Hanawon-a government sponsored educational facility for the settlement of North Korean refugees during their initial phase in South Korea-in 2004 to explore their mental health status and traumatic experiences in North Korea and during their escape period.
METHODS
A survey was conducted in November 2004 with 62 North Korean refugees at Hanawon, and the Trauma Checklist was used to measure their traumatic experiences. To measure their psychological-mental health status, the Personality Assessment Inventory was administered.
RESULTS
In comparison with the traumatic experiences of the North Korean refugees found in the study conducted in 2001 at Hanawon using the same methods, the current study showed a relatively lower frequency of traumatic experiences among the participants. The Personality Assessment Inventory results revealed that the study participants scored higher than average South Koreans in all clinical scales. Particularly, their mania (62.51) and schizophrenia (61.75) scores were above 60, a clinically meaningful score. In the gender comparison, the males exhibited meaningfully higher levels of alcohol problem, non-support, and warmth scale scores.
CONCLUSION
Compared to the 2001 study, the overall traumatic experiences among North Korean refugees participated in this study. But continous support is necessary for their successful adaptation to South Korean Society have declined. The North Korean refugees at Hanawon experienced difficulties maintaining their mental health and the men in particular requested more intensive care and support for this purpose.

Keyword

North Korean refugee; North Korean defector; Traumatic experience; Mental health; Personality Assessment Inventory

MeSH Terms

Bipolar Disorder
Checklist
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Humans
Critical Care
Korea
Male
Mental Health*
Personality Assessment
Refugees*
Schizophrenia
United Nations
Weights and Measures
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