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ISSN : 2384-0668(Print)
ISSN : 2384-0692(Online)
S/N Korean Humanities Vol.2 No.1 pp.17-43

A Comparative Study on Everyday Life of South Koreans and North Korean Defectors*

Chung Jin-A
Institute of Humanities for Unification, Konkuk University


This article is a research that surveyed and compared everyday customs, such as food, clothing and shelter, rites and seasonal rituals, and awareness of daily issues, such as views on family values, marriage, education and career, of South Koreans with that of North Korean defectors, in order to better understand the characteristics of living culture of South Koreans and North Korean defectors and to search for ways for the two groups to communicate better and culturally integrate. The results of the research show that, in relation to everyday customs such as clothing, food and shelter, rites and seasonal rituals, both South Koreans and North Korean defectors had transformed the traditional living culture to befit the lifestyles of the modern era. It seems that everyday customs of South Koreans had become more westernized while North Korean defectors maintained more traditional customs, but such difference decreased as defectors spent longer time in South Korea. One commonality in everyday customs found between the two was that customs acted as a mechanism maintaining a sense of community among South Koreans and among North Korean defectors, who had lived for a long time in different systems.
Due to inter-Korea tensions, and differing experience and habits formed under the different systems of capitalism and socialism, a large gap between the two groups was found in the area of day to day awareness and values. Differences were most pronounced in views on marriage and career. First of all, South Koreans were more negative toward marriage with a North Korean defector than with a Korean of another country whereas the defectors were more negative toward marriage with an overseas Korean and positive toward marriage with a South Korean. Secondly, for South Koreans, the higher the income, the stronger the pride they had over their jobs. However, for North Korean, those with lower income tended to be more proud of their jobs. South Koreans preferred becoming civil servants and professionals. North Korean defectors also added to the list, workers, as a job that made them proud. Thirdly, in choosing their jobs, South Koreans felt the thoughts and advice of their parents to be important while North Korean defectors were more reliant on state policy. The results of this study gives us important insight into how we can promote cultural integration of South Koreans and North Korean defectors. First of all, the negative perspective South Koreans have of North Korean defectors has to be fundamentally revisited. It is essential that the prejudice of equating ordinary North Koreans with the government be overcome and that North Korean defectors be seen with a sense of national solidarity. Secondly, South Koreans and North Koreans defectors need to share the advantages of individualism and collectivism that the two sides had acquired as a result of living under different systems, and be able to use those advantages as a driver of social development. Third, cultural integration between South Koreans and North Korean defectors must be a process of attaining diversity in national everyday customs while respecting the customs of the other, and also of heading toward further expanding and developing national everyday customs.