Andrea LeeFollow




School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


James Swezey


human rights, Juche, militarism, modern underground railroad, North Korean defectors, North Korean refugees


Education | International and Comparative Education | Social and Cultural Anthropology


This transcendental phenomenological study describes the essence of the premigration, transmigration, and postmigration educational life experiences of 15 North Korean defectors in South Korea in light of their exposure to Juche, militarism, and human rights violations. The literature review includes a theoretical framework rooted in the transformative learning theory and pertinent themes related to the educational experiences of North Korean defectors. Data was collected through a demographic survey; a timeline of primary life events; standardized, open-ended interviews; and journal entries. The central research question examined primary themes from the educational life experiences of North Korean defectors during premigration, transmigration, and postmigration. Data analysis procedures included finding significant statements, synthesizing a field journal, and creating textural and structural descriptions which led to the essence of the overall experience. Premigration themes that emerged include the importance of social status, poverty and extreme hardship, Kim family indoctrination, regular participation in saenghwal chonghwa, a variety of behaviors and interactions in the classroom, the importance of Juche and militarism, and unbalanced education. Transmigration themes primarily center on a lack of education. Postmigration themes predominately highlight adaptation problems and the participants' present views of Juche, militarism, and human rights. Finally, future themes include education as a key to success and reunification dreams.