Self-Employment Among North Korean Migrants

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In the absence of concrete ethnic differences, the division of a single Korean nation into two opposing states has led to the creation of specific types of nationhood and state building. This pseudo-ethnicity, which marks North Korean immigrants as “other” to South Koreans, results in adaptation problems and cultural difficulties. As the sociological literature considers self-employment of minorities and immigrants to be an important avenue for upward economic mobility, this paper focuses on North Korean new settlers who have established their own businesses in South Korea. By case study analysis, it was revealed that new settlers and official organisations have highly differing perceptions on the issue of North Korean self-employment. Public authorities try to discourage North Koreans from becoming self-employed, which is why a comprehensive economic support programme is lacking. However, it was discerned that a new generation of new settlers is growing, showing high motivation and entrepreneurial spirit. The result of this study showed that a tailored support programme for self-employed North Koreans, such as an adapted form of social enterprises, is needed.

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