North Korean secondary asylum in the UK


The number of North Korean secondary migrants from South Korea has grown markedly in the last 10 years.

Drawing on semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and participatory observation conducted between 2012 and 2017, this article explores the motivations for North Korean secondary migration and the role of transnational networks in the migration and settlement trajectory. Our findings suggest that many North Koreans in South Korea feel discriminated against due to their origins, and are unable to engage in upward social mobility.

We argue that North Korean secondary migration to the United Kingdom (UK) is not a linear process of push and pull factors but a highly reactive and unpredictable one that depends on information fed by brokers. The UK hosts one of the largest communities of North Koreans outside Northeast Asia. Most North Koreans in the UK are secondary asylum seekers from South Korea. Their life in the UK, however, comes with its own set of challenges, some of which mirror co-ethnic or ideological frictions among North Koreans themselves, with the Korean-Chinese, or with South Koreans. This paper contributes to debates on multiple migration, providing a migrant-centric perspective to answer why people who are offered material benefits in the country they arrive in choose to on-migrate to a place where life can be often more challenging.


This is a featured abstract of the original article published here by Jay Jiyoung Song and Markus Bell

For attribution, the above image is a still featured from a training video for North Korean defectors by the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

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