In the paper “Internal Migration in North Korea: Preparation for Governmental Disruption,” Sandra Fahy makes many great points, she got me thinking about what will happen later in terms of NK migration.
But my random thoughts…
1) On page 118, the author even speculates about the “near emptying of North Korea.” I’m old enough that I remember when the Berlin Wall fell,and people were worried that East Germany would be abandoned. Although many East Germans did leave after reunification, many more stayed, and many have now returned.
My guess is that many if not most NKs will stay where they are. That’s the world, most people stay where they are, even when they have the freedom to move.
2) There was the Great Migration of Blacks after the Civil War, then during the 20th century. That has also reversed somewhat. It could be that North Koreans are more like former slaves in America rather than East Germans. Either way, there were also debates in the 19th century about whether or not former slaves should remain where they are, with Booker T. Washington advising blacks to “Cast down your bucket where you are” and Frederick Douglass was also opposed to blacks migrating to the North.
3) When South Korea lifted martial law in the late 1980s, with passports later becoming widespread among South Koreans for the first time, there was also an outward migration, along with a bump in tourism that troubled many politicians and academics at the time.
4) It seems to be too much of an emphasis in the paper on keeping North Koreans in North Korea, on page 120 the author states that NK “out-migration must invariably be managed and regulated.” I’m not sure who is supposed to manage and regulate NK out-migration. The gang currently stopping North Korean refugees from leaving the country may have some ideas…
5) On page 128, the author states that the “2004 Human Rights Act, which enables them to attain refugee status in the United States after first settling in South Korea.” It may be a distinction without a difference, but I guess that should mention that they can also gain refugee status by going directly to the USA, not necessarily after first settling in South Korea.
6) The author states that this “contemporary trend of the onward migration of North Koreans suggests that we begin to critically examine whether South Korea is the ideal destination for North Korean migrants.” I have agreed with this for years, it shouldn’t be assumed that South Korea is the ideal destination, and it shouldn’t be seen as unusual that NK refugees look to other countries. That’s even true of South Koreans, many of them would also like to move to other countries. There is nothing necessarily political or strange about an American moving to another country, but North Koreans choosing to live in a different country than South Korea supposedly are in need of critical analysis.
7) The author’s final statement: 1) Reduce the number of North Koreans leaving North Korea to reduce additional crisis 2) by providing for the critical needs of internal migrants in NK, prepare into order to “incentivize” individuals to “shelter in place.”
As I said, there is too much about regulating and controlling the future migration choices of North Koreans.
8) Alas, the author never mentions the freedom of North Koreans to be able to travel, to choose when and where they can live. It is an academic paper with ideas about government policy that addresses migration barriers imposed by China and South Korea, but still, shouldn’t North Korean right of locomotion be part of the conversation at some point? Instead, the emphasis is on regulating, managing, controlling and preparing for the time that NKs may finally be able to venture out into the world.
Hat tip: Hyun Song
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