Paper Title
Factors That Influence Juvenile North Korean Defectors’ Psychosocial Adaptation To South Korea

The objective of this study is to examine the levels and influence of self-esteem, emotional intelligence, and adaptation to South Korean society among juvenile North Korean defectors in order to identify the factors influencing young North Korean defectors’ psychosocial adaptation to South Korea. The participants of this study were North Korean defectors aged between 9 and 24 years, who are defined as “juveniles” under Korea’s Framework Act on Juveniles. A questionnaire survey was conducted at alternative schools and local counseling centers in communities where North Korean defectors are concentrated and 170 questionnaires were collected. The score of the participants’ psychosocial adaptation to South Korea was at an average level, at 1.5 points out of 3. Among the sub-areas of assessment, the score for aggressiveness was significantly high, which indicates that an intervention for mitigating the aggressiveness of juvenile North Korean defectors is necessary. Women (rather than men) and elementary school children (rather than college students) showed lower levels of psychosocial adaptation to South Korean society. The level of juvenile North Korean defectors’ psychosocial adaptation to South Korean society showed a statistically significant positive correlation with posttraumatic stress symptoms, enculturation stress, and anxiety about an uncertain future. The more posttraumatic symptoms they showed and the higher level of stress they experienced in adjusting to the new culture, the greater was their anxiety about an uncertain future and the less successful they were in adapting to South Korea. On the contrary, psychosocial adaptation to South Korea demonstrated a statistically significant negative correlation with emotional intelligence, self-esteem, and satisfaction with peer relationships. The higher the emotional intelligence and self-esteem were, the more satisfied they were with their relationship with friends and the more successful they were in adjusting to South Korea. Finally, the variables that affect juvenile North Korean defectors’ psychosocial adaptation to South Korea the most were posttraumatic stress symptoms and enculturation stress. These two variables account for 49.1% of the participants’ psychosocial adaptation. This result indicates the need for developing comprehensive programs to help juvenile North Korean defectors successfully adapt to South Korea, as well as local communities and government agencies’ efforts to help them grow into Korean citizens who can contribute to South Korean society.