Sarah (Hye Jung) Kim

North Korean Refugees - 2010-2011

  • Sarah Kim (class of 2011) spent her summer in Seoul, South Korea, partnering with the National Youth Policy Institute. She examined how North Korean refugees' preconceptions about South Korea compare with the experienced reality of living there. 


    Community Partner: National Youth Policy Institute in Seoul, South Korea.


    Community Based Research Project: “How do pre-defection expectations of North Korean refugees influence their success at acclimatizing once they have resettled in South Korea?”


    Capstone Research Portfolio: "Relationship between Diversity Education and Performance: Bringing attention to the need for Diversity Education in South Korea."




    July 19, 2010

    Last week a middle school girl was found dead in Han River. It turns out that a group of her friends got angry at her for talking behind their back, so they locked her in one of their friend’s apartment and beat her to death. After killing this girl, the group of teenagers searched on the internet for the best place to get rid of a dead body. Then, they cut open the victim’s throat and Achilles to drain all the blood out in order to make the body easier to carry. They covered the body with mud and wrapped it with some newspapers and got on a cab. When the cab driver asked them what they were carrying, they just told him it was a sculpture they had made for the school’s art fair. When they got to one of the bridges across Han River, they placed couple of coins on the body and tied some weight on her limbs. (It’s a Korean tradition to give money to the dead body, so the spirit will have money on his or her journey to the next world. Usually people put 10,000 won bills. The fact that they placed 10won coins is already disrespectful.) The teenagers found out that if a body is dropped at the deepest part of the Han River with weights, it’s unlikely for the body to be found. So they dropped the body into the water and left the scene...Read more of Sarah's Letter Home

    Sarah Kim spent her summer in Seoul, South Korea, working with an organization called the National Youth Policy Institute. She used resettlement documents and individual interviews with North Korean refugees to examine how preconceptions about South Korea compared with the experienced reality of life there. Sarah found that North Koreans defect for a variety of reasons, including political, personal, and economic motivations. Many expect a warm welcome in South Korea, and are often disillusioned to discover that their South Korean neighbors can view them with hostility.


    Cricial Reflctions

    Prior to coming here, I really had everything planned out. I planned what days I wanted to meet with my advisor, how many times a week I wanted to go interview North Koreans, how many North Koreans to interview, how many literature review I wanted to do… etc. I had my entire summer planned out to write this grand report on the realities of the North Korean refugees in South Korea. I guess I thought that a research project just becomes a community-based research project if my research topic is something that my community partner would benefit from...Read more of Sarah's Critical Reflections

    Sarah (Hye Jung) Kim is a senior from Busan, South Korea, double-majoring in Public Policy Studies and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, with a certificate in Ethics. Sarah’s academic path has focused on civic engagement, ethics, and multicultural education. Last summer, she designed a multicultural camp in Korea for biracial children as an independent project through Duke Engage, and she is currently the Vice President of Internal Policy for the International Association at Duke. She has been involved in University Conduct Board, the Honor Council, the Duke University Student Advisory Committee, and the task force charged with advising the merger between the Multicultural Center and the International House. Sarah is further involved in Vision for North Korea, a student organization that works to raise awareness for North Korean refugees and their sufferings on campus. She is also a Resident Assistant in Wannamaker.