A digital truce line between South and North Korea? : an analysis of North Koreans' digital access, media use, and adaptation

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Min, Bumgi

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The number of North Korean refugees moving to South Korea as exiles has gradually increased over the past few decades. Therefore, North Korean refugees' adaptation to South Korean society is perceived as one of the most significant issues in South Korea. Instead of using face-to-face communication, North Korean refugees tend to use diverse media channels such as newspapers, television, and Internet to learn about South Korea's value system, social norms, and even how to form relationships. In other words, media has played a crucial role in North Korean refugees' adaptation. Based on this social phenomenon, this paper provides not only the current status of digital access and literacy among North Korean refugees but also the relationship between North Korean refugees' media use and their adaptation by using social trust, social capital, and political participation. This paper takes a quantitative approach as well as a qualitative approach. For a quantitative approach, this study employs a survey of 43 North Korean refugees. Qualitatively, this study conducted in-depth interviews with a total of 12 North Korean refugees. In terms of digital access, both statistical results and interview findings demonstrate that North Korean refugees' digital access is high. However, the refugees' digital literacy and media use are divided according to their occupation and age. Not only do the statistical results but also the interview findings show that digital media plays a significant role in North Korean refugees' social trust and social networking. However, the quantitative findings as well as the qualitative findings do not explain the relationship between digital media and political participation. The results of this research will have significant implications on current telecommunication policies for narrowing the digital divide between South Korean and North Korean refugees.



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