A 7-Year Follow-Up Study on the Mental Health of North Korean Defectors in South Korea
Woo-Taek Jeon ; Jin-Sup Eom ; Sung Kil Min
Journal of Traumatic Stress, Vol.26(1) : 158~164, 2013
Journal of Traumatic Stress
This study was conducted to describe the relationship of past trauma and current stress on the mental health of North Korean (NK) defectors living in South Korea 7 years after a baseline assessment. Of the 200 who participated in the initial study, 106 participated in follow-up. Previous data regarding past traumatic events experienced in North Korea and during defection, past posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and their current stress levels were correlated with the participants’ current mental health status including depression, anxiety, and PTSD. The rate of PTSD in the sample and the scores on the PTSD symptom scale decreased significantly from the baseline. The participants’ current mental health was negatively related to previous traumatic experiences in North Korea and past symptoms of PTSD, but unrelated to previous trauma experienced during defection. In addition, although current mental health was negatively related to only current culture-related stress, it was unrelated to the level of current ordinary life stress. The results of this study suggest that PTSD symptoms decreased during the 7 years between assessments, and that current culture-related stress is the most important variable related to the mental health of NK defectors living in South Korea.