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Refugee Perceptions toward Democratic Citizenship: A Narrative Analysis of North Koreans

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This article examines the informal dimension of political integration for refugees: how, after a lifetime of authoritarianism, do they make sense of their newfound democratic citizenship? I identify the perceptual lenses that refugees use through a narrative study of North Korean refugees in South Korea. Discourse analysis of thirty-one personal narratives and twenty paired debates on topics about democratic citizenship reveals a surprising phenomenon. For refugees who feel co-national identification with South Koreans, a deeply communal script of duty to the nation—socialized in the authoritarian North—is extended toward South Korea, framing new democratic roles such as voting as a matter of obligation. Those who lack such identification tend to rely on an instrumental approach instead, with implications for divergent integration trajectories.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2020

This article was made available online on November 28, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "Refugee Perceptions toward Democratic Citizenship: A Narrative Analysis of North Koreans".

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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