The Flip: Mobile Communication of North Korean Migrant Women During Their Journey to South Korea

Juhee Kang, Richard Ling, Arul Chib


This study focuses on the role of mobile communication in the migratory experiences of North Korean women as they journeyed to South Korea. We examine how mobile telephony played into their transition from perhaps the world’s most digitally disconnected country to one of the most digitally oriented societies. Based on interviews with 20 North Korean women living in South Korea, we examine their use of mobile communication in North Korea and during their journey when it was extremely restricted, clandestine, and fraught. Nonetheless, the phone was often instrumental in their escape. By contrast, on entering South Korea, their use of the mobile phone became structured into everyday life and, in this case, not to have a phone was problematic. Thus, the mobile phone becomes a lens with which to understand relationships and the shifting positions of these migrants vis-à-vis different power structures.


mobile communication, migration, North Korea, defectors

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