This study analyzed the characteristics of households, the economic characteristics of households, the characteristics of parents’ occupation, the characteristics of their childcare, the need for childcare support, and the reasons of use of childcare and educational institutions through a survey of 200 North Korean refugees with young children. The average number of household members living with North Korean refugees was 3.1. The majority of the respondents were recipients of basic living allowance. The monthly average household income was about 1.8 million won(about 1,600 USD), and monthly childcare cost for infants and young children was about 450 thousand won(about 400 USD). The majority of North Korean refugees perceived that caring their children is their own responsibility (55%). The refugee parents had a similar share of nurturing roles compared to their South Korean counterparts, but the rate of playing with their children was significantly lower. The biggest difficulty for North Korean refugees in raising children was urgent childcare because they didn’t have relatives in South Korea. North Korean refugees needed information on government childcare support policies. Child raising information of North Korean refugees was mainly obtained through their friends and neighbors. North Korean refugees were most likely to use the Healthy Families Support Center among their child care support delivery systems and their satisfaction was high. North Korean refugees often failed to receive parent education. Other North Korean refugees were the first to place their children in urgent cases, followed by their friends or neighbors.
This study also collected data through in-depth interview with North Korean refugee parents. The social network established by North Korean refugees was formed through strong-tie, a network among their friends and relatives. The social network of weak-tie was needed more actively in pursuit of social network formation because the information delivery to refugees was insufficient. Guidance on comprehensive and systematic childcare support policies was required in common spaces such as the resident center. The language of North Korean refugees acted as a marker to inform them that they are from North Korea. Many refugees feel uncomfortable with the marker. This was not just a matter of language itself, but the social prejudice against the refugees. Without this change of awareness, it would be difficult for refugees to communicate easily in South Korea. The influence of the media on North Korean refugees was strong. The majority of North Korean refugees were unmarried women. Without sufficient education and information about marriage and pregnancy, the refugees had difficulty of being parents.
Based on the result of this study, the authors suggest the followings:
First, the direction of North Korean defectors' support policy should be changed from individual center to family center.
Second, the introduction of the North Korean refugee ombudsman system is necessary.
Third, we propose to create manual for child support for North Korean defectors.
Fourth, North Korean refugee support regional council should be more activated.