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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.

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Appeared or available online: November 28, 2019

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