Journal List > J Korean Acad Nurs > v.50(1) > 1143145

Cho and Choi: Hermeneutic Phenomenological Study on the Experiences of Employment of Married North Korean Women Defectors Rearing Children



This study aimed to understand the experiences of married North Korean women’s child-rearing, working lives, and their home and work environment in depth.


This study adopted van Manen’s hermeneutic phenomenological method to qualitatively analyze data. The participants were 8 married North Korean women defectors. Data were collected through in-depth interviews and observations from July 4 to August 20, 2018.


Nine essential themes emerged: more personal challenges after overcoming a life-threatening crisis; hopes of firmly settling in this land; the wound from the north, which chased them here; a body that becomes stronger through hardship; being stuck in a past full of anxiety and pain; the present is full of hope; hope for the future; sense of alienation from coworkers that cannot be overcome; and sense of power to endure an exhausting work life.


This study provided a broader understanding of the life and experiences of married women from North Korea. It highlights the need for nurses to recognize their importance in nursing care. The study also suggests that academic and practical approaches for nursing, and basic data for a nursing intervention for married women from North Korea be provided. The study findings can be used as a basis for preparing a national policy that will help North Korean defectors to find employment and gain stability.


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Table 1.
Participants’ Characteristics
ID Age Residence period No. of children Marital Status Occupation Religion
P1 45 12 2 Married Public health Christian
P2 43 12 2 Married Public health Christian
P3 39 6 1 Married Manual labor None
P4 28 5 2 Married Manual labor Christian
P5 31 5 1 Widowed Manual labor None
P6 46 7 3 Widowed Manual labor Christian
P7 46 7 1 Married Manual labor Christian
P8 38 8 2 Widowed Manual labor None


Table 2.
The Experiences of Employment of Married North Korean Women Defectors Rearing Children
Dimension Essential Themes Themes
Lived space More personal challenges after overcoming a life- High employment barriers
threatening crisis Job problems because of prejudice
A sense of fear in the workplace
The occupation in North Korea is useless in South Korea
A sense of self-pity about unfair treatment
Hopes to firmly settle in this land A persistent desire to gain our children’s confidence
Working with a sense of purpose to obtain a solid foundation
Lived body The wound from the north, which has chased me here Continuing to work while suppressing pain that is not understood
The wound of childbirth is a stumbling block in life
A body that becomes stronger through hardship Overcoming exhaustion as a mother
Work until exhaustion to escape poverty
Lived time Being stuck in a past full of anxiety and pain Encounter with the past that must endure
Memories of pain that are replayed relentlessly
The present is full of hope Diligently striving not to burden our children
Satisfaction with the rewards and freedoms that result from hard work
A hope for national policies that eliminate prejudice and discrimination
A hope for the future Dreams of becoming a citizen in harmony with everyone
Pledging to be a bridge for a unified generation
Lived others A sense of alienation from coworkers that cannot be Confusion at work due to an unfamiliar work environment
overcome Restraint about identity as a person who abandoned the family
Grief over being a foreigner who is disrespected and ignored at work
A sense of power to endure an exhausting work life Relying on a helping hand
The word “mom” inducing positive and negative emotions
Depending on religion with a sense of desperation
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