This study focused on the process of consent, analyzing the vulnerability of North Korean defectors, exploring related issues, and seeking specific protective measures accordingly. The results of the research through a literature analysis, in-depth interviews with North Korean defectors, and expert advice are as follows.
First, it appears that North Korean defectors are vulnerable with regard to personal protection along with cognitive and communication vulnerabilities, social and cultural vulnerabilities, institutional vulnerabilities, medical vulnerabilities, and economic vulnerabilities; these are in addition to their social and daily experiences in North Korea, their escapee life in a third country, and their settlement process after their arrival. The most serious vulnerabilities revealed in the consent process are cognitive/communicative vulnerabilities followed by social vulnerabilities.
Second, a total of three research ethics issues were determined for North Korean defectors. The most pressing of these is the difficulty of understanding the consent form, which results in linguistic/communicative vulnerability. A lack of a sense of duty/rights and poor self-expression of questions due to social vulnerability are also important issues in the process of consent.
Third, to address the pending issue, Researchers need to use easy words, short sentences, and auxiliary languages (Chinese) to match the actual mother tongue of North Korean defectors when writing consent/explanatory statements and verbal explanations. It can also consider structural (legal) measures to establish an online integrated platform operated by the National Bioethics Committee that provides in-depth education and advice for Institutional Review Board and researchers.