North Korea's Refugees: A Window into North Korea and Source of Humanitarian Concern

Marcus Noland, Peterson Institute
Jhe Seong Ho, Korean Human Rights Ambassador-at-Large
Choi Zoo Hwal, National Institute for Security and Strategy of Korea

Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington, DC

April 29, 2009

As North Korea once again makes headlines with its provocations, the Institute hosted an event April 29, 2009, to present new research by Senior Fellow Marcus Noland based on a recently completed survey of North Korean refugees in South Korea, a companion survey to one done earlier in China by Noland and collaborators. The new survey provides extraordinary insight into the changing pathways to power, wealth, and status within North Korea, as well as the rise of inequality, corruption, and disaffection in the decade since the famine of the 1990s, along with the refugees' assessments of the regime, its motivations, and its capabilities.

Speaking through an interpreter, two North Korean defectors added personal accounts at the event. South Korea's ambassador for Human Rights, Ambassador Jhe Seong Ho offered an analysis from the South Korean government's perspective. Choi Zoo Hwal, National Institute for Security and Strategy of Korea, provided personal commentary on the issues raised by the survey results.

Left to right: John Williamson, Marcus Noland,
Jhe Seong Ho, and Choi Zoo Hwal

Marcus Noland is unique among American economists in having devoted serious scholarly effort to the problems of North Korea. He won the 2000–2001 Ohira Memorial Award for his book Avoiding the Apocalypse: The Future of the Two Koreas. The work that Noland presented at this event is part of a larger study that he is completing with Stephan Haggard on North Korea's political economy and its human rights and refugee situations.

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