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Perceived Threats and South Korean's Attitude toward North Korean Defectors

HwangJungMee 1

1고려대학교 아세아문제연구소

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper analyses South Korean's attitude toward North Korean defectors focusing on the influence of ‘perceived threats’. Based on survey data sets collected from 2007 to 2015, this research organizes several regression model to investigate whether perceived threats of South Korean respondents intensify their exclusive attitude toward North Korean defectors. Now there are almost 29,000 North Korean defectors living in South Korea. They have multiple and often contradictory positions in South Korean society. On the one hand, they are legal citizens and the same blood brothers, but on the other hand, they are refugees or migrants who have to adapt to a new host society. This research suggests that prejudice against minority groups like North Korean defector is not only reinforced by explicit political and economic factors such as increased labor market competition and conflicts around additional policy costs to support minorities. It is also important to examine that respondent's perception of social threats, sense of insecurity, concerns about unemployment and unstable future may provoke mechanisms of contra-identification to put minority groups out of majority’s boundary of community. The result of regression analysis shows that the scale of social distance toward North Korean defectors inclines to extend when respondents' level of perceived threats increases. However, respondent's occupation and education background show no significant impact in our regression model. This means that exclusive attitudes toward minorities tend to be reinforced if ordinary people are more worried about instability and insecurity in their everyday lives. It is also found that the effect of perceived threat is more significant among young respondents in their twenties. Young people who are more concerned about unemployment crisis, especially since 2013 survey, incline to have negative attitudes toward North Korean defectors. This result implies that competitive social conditions in South Korea may increase young people's perceptions of powerlessness which in turn amplify exclusive attitude toward minorities and out-groups such as North Korean defectors. It also supports for the importance of policy measures including education programs to enhance the value of multicultural coexistence among young generation and also social inclusion of North Korean defectors.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.