North Korean Refugees: Finding New Way of Life in South Korea


In recent years, the number of North Korean refugees living in South Korea increased while the relative age fell. According to the Korean Ministry of Unification, over 40%of the refugees were between 10-20 years old. These young refugees are adjusting to a new life in South Korea that is very different from those of refugees of the past.

With the rising popularity of YouTube in Korea, becoming a YouTuber became a popular way of making a living for this younger generation of refugees. While the mainstream news about North Korea always dealt with heavy subjects, these young YouTubers offered a rare glimpse into the daily life of people in North Korea by sharing their personal stories. 

One of the most well-known North Korean YouTubers is Nara Kang, a 22-year-old refugee with 16.2K subscribers. Her most popular video was the story of her escape, which received over 1.7 million views. In that video, Kang recounted being afraid she was going to die when she was carried away by the water while crossing the Tumen River to get to China from North Korea in 2014 when she was about 17. 

Kang explained that her desire to escape oppression and meet her mother, already settled in South Korea, led her to risk her life to complete the journey. Other videos of Kang include Q&A sessions, where she answers trivia questions on topics such as censorship, fashion, marriage, makeup, and food in North Korea. 

While there are some television programs featuring North Korean refugees, they often fail to encapsulate the refugees’ full stories as well as the YouTube videos do because TV shows are filmed and edited by South Koreans. However, by directly communicating with people online, these young, stylish North Korean YouTubers, like Kang, are able to provide authentic stories about life in North Korea while simultaneously helping to address common misconceptions about them. 

Associated Press. “North Korea Refugees Use YouTube to Reveal Life inside Hermit Kingdom.” New York Post, New York Post, 26 Sept. 2019,

Irene Jung 2019 Copyright

Irene Jung

Irene Jung is a three-year junior from South Korea. As a writer, she hopes to deliver a variety of news to the Blair community.