Asian Women - The Research Institute of Asian Women Journal

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OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 8 , No. 3

[ Article ]
OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.33-63
ISSN: 2093-5498 (Print)
Print publication date 31 Jul 2017
Received 17 Apr 2017 Reviewed 19 Apr 2017 Accepted 28 Jun 2017

An Investigation into the Educational Experiences of North Korean Refugees in China in Light of Their Exposure to Human Rights Violations
Andrea Rakushin Lee
Assistant Professor in the Department of English Language and Culture at Konkuk University Glocal Campus (


North Korean refugees face myriad challenges in China which makes it difficult to obtain access to formal education. The Chinese government classifies them as illegal, economic migrants. If they are caught by authorities in China, they face deportation to North Korea, which can result in torture, incarceration, and even execution. It is important to learn more about the educational experiences, both formal and informal, of North Korean refugees in China so that aid organizations can better assist them by providing quality educational programs while concealing the refugees’ identities. Participants in this study were North Korean refugees in their twenties who live in South Korea and had travelled through China or lived in China prior to gaining asylum through a South Korean consulate abroad. The study was conducted with North Korean refugees in South Korea since North Korean refugees in China are at risk of being sent back to North Korea if exposed. Several types of data were collected including a demographic survey, a timeline of primary life events, standardized open-ended interviews, and journal entries. This article discusses primary themes that emerged related to the educational experiences of North Korean refugees in China in light of their exposure to human rights violations.

Keywords: North Korean refugees, North Korean defectors, China, human rights violations, transformative learning

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Biographical Note

Andrea Rakushin Lee received her M.P.A. in Public Management from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, M.A. in History from American Military University, and Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Liberty University. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English Language and Culture at Konkuk University Glocal Campus, South Korea. Her primary research interests include refugee education, blended learning, and student interaction in the online classroom. Email: (