• Andrea Rakushin Lee Independence University


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to learn about the transformative learning experiences of North Korean refugee students in South Korean colleges and universities. Since the mid-1990s, most North Korean refugees have escaped from communist North Korea because of poverty and severe economic problems. They begin their journey on the new underground railroad in China, Mongolia, and southeast Asia. Some are able to gain asylum through South Korean embassies and consulates, but this is a risky method. In South Korea, many new refugees from North Korea expect abundant opportunities and a hospitable environment; however, many are faced with myriad challenges especially in education. North Korean refugees have a much higher university dropout rate in comparison to their South Korean peers; nevertheless, many hope that they can have a more promising future through education. This study examined the transformative learning experiences of 15 North Korean refugees by exploring past and present educational experiences and how they have shaped their visions for the future. Four types of data were collected including demographic surveys, timelines of primary life events, standardized, open-ended interviews, and journal entries.

Keywords: transformative learning, North Korean refugees, North Korean defectors, phenomenology


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Research Article