Strangers in their Imagined Motherland: North Korean Refugees’ Experiences in South Korea

Author: Brittney Rowe
Major: Literary Studies, Communication Studies
Approved: Spring 2018
Status: Completed

Recent tensions between the United States and North Korea have put a spotlight on the Korean peninsula. Enhanced by the 2018 Pyeonchang Winter Olympics and the Korean Wave (otherwise known as the Hallyu Wave), this spotlight illuminates only a small portion of South Korean culture while neglecting much of the history and people that truly define the country. My project will look more deeply into South Korean culture, looking to promote greater understanding of the people of Korea and how both they and outsiders have shaped their history. Based in part on the information and connections I will gain while conducting research in South Korea this summer through the Asia-Freeman grant, t hope to learn more about South Koreans’ perspectives on current issues, in addition to providing historical context during my semester abroad there in fall 2018. While studying in South Korea, I plan on conducting in-person interviews with my fellow students and faculty, focusing on learning more about Korea’s historical development, as well as asking questions relating to South Koreans’ feelings toward unification, their perceptions of North Koreans (specifically women), and their consumption of media focused on North Korean individuals. My project will largely focus on issues of perception and bias regarding North Koreans, focusing on women and ideas of femininity. In other words, how do South Koreans perceive North Korean women and how do South Korean media perpetuate or distort this image? Through asking questions such as these and conducting interviews with Korean individuals, I will fulfill my ultimate goal of promoting greater awareness of the Korean culture and people through my research, website, and subsequent presentations.