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In Session: Migrating Dreams and Nightmares: Korean Across Borders
"Starting a New Life" :North Korean Defector Mothers’ Struggles and Identity Making in South Korea
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
University of Iowa, United States
Currently, there are approximately 33,000 North Korean defectors live in South Korea, and the majority of this population group is women. Many of these women are mothers who attempt to reconfigure themselves within South Kroean system, North Kroean mothers in South Korea that I met often referred to their struggles and challenges as munhwa chai (cultural difference), and they rationalized among themselves that things were different in North Kroea. However, behind a homogenized and rather dismissive term "cultural difference," there are multiple layers of personal strategies and rationalization that former North Korean mothers have developed in order to adpat to and survive in South Korea. This research questions the way North Korean mothers cope with these challenges and illustrates how they attempt to overcome the struggles with thier own strategies. Witin this process, this study points out that the South Korean society and governmental system are emphasizing "Starting a new life" as South Korean citizens by erasing North Korean defector mothers' personal histories. However, concluding the study, I finally argue that even with these struggles, North Korean mothers are creating their own ways to be good mothers in South Korea and becoming their versions of future South Korean mothers based on their own past experiences.