Study on the Development of Healing Programs for North Korean Refugees Using Classical Narratives

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S/N Korean Humanities Vol.2 No.2 pp.55-84 ISSN : 2384-0668(Print)
ISSN : 2384-0692(Online)

Park Jai-In
Institute of Humanities for Unification, Konkuk University

Received June 30 2016; Revised version received July 31 2016; Accepted August 15 2016


This research designs a program to improve the perspective of North Korean refugees using a literary therapy methodology, focusing on the fact that the experiences of defection and migration endured by North Korean refugees are similar to the hardships and the success of heroes in classical literature. Among Korean classics, there are folktales such as My Own Fortune, novels such as The Story of Hong Kiltong, and myths on founding of nations such as the Myth of Chumong, which all deal with oppression and limitations of the past location, and escape, migration and success, and such plots exist in all genres. In the process of the heroes reaching success, the oppression and limitations of their past locations act as inevitable deprivations that allow them to further mature, from which the protagonists gain astonishing abilities and develop into heroes. In light of such syntax of heroic narratives, the past experiences of North Korean refugees can very well become the basis for future success. However, for the refugees, their experiences of defection and migration are remembered only as hardships. They also tend to be pessimistic toward their lives. I consider such aspects to be central in the vicious cycle in which their inadaptability and their mental health affect each other negatively. In order to improve their perspective and help them gain more confidence in their lives, I hypothesize that a humanities-based approach can be an excellent methodology and attempt to detail such a program. The healing program for North Korean refugees using classical heroic narratives that this research proposes is a humanities-based one that induces the subjects to go beyond remembering their past only as series of hardships and to perceive it as a foundation for success. By using the power of narratives, which is the unit of human thought, memory of an arduous past can be relieved, and by applying the success stories of heroes to the refugees’ lives, the refugees can receive guidance in the concrete development of their lives. These are the main aspects of such program, which involve reading of classical literature and creative activities that articulate their lives.

Key Words : North Korean refugees, literary therapy, defection trauma, Korean folktales, classical heroic narratives

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