Correlates of Domestic Violence Victimization Among North Korean Refugee Women in South Korea

Mee Young Um, Hee Jin Kim, Lawrence A. Palinkas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Although many North Korean (NK) refugee women are victims of domestic violence (DV) in North Korea, face sexual exploitation during migration, and remain at risk of DV while adapting to life in South Korea, there is no empirical evidence about risk factors for DV in this population. To fill this gap, this study examined whether gender role beliefs, child abuse history, and sociocultural adaptation were associated with past-year physical, emotional, sexual, and economic abuse, and whether they were associated with multiple forms of abuse. We also explored whether these associations were similar or different across different types of DV among NK refugee women. A sample of 180 ever-married NK refugee women in South Korea from the 2010 National Survey on Family Violence was used for analysis. Physical abuse was associated with more traditional gender role beliefs; emotional abuse and multiple forms of abuse were associated with lower levels of sociocultural adaptation; and sexual and economic abuse were associated with an increased likelihood of childhood abuse and poor sociocultural adaptation. Our study findings underscore the importance of assisting NK refugee women to be better adapted to the new culture in a practical way, because better sociocultural adaptation might protect them from experiencing various types of abuse. At the same time, findings of this study highlight the need for empowering NK refugee women who report physical abuse by educating their rights and altering their traditional beliefs of gender roles, and screening of childhood abuse and providing culturally sensitive psychotherapy to those who report sexual or economic abuse. Moreover, we suggest future studies to examine correlates of different forms of abuse separately because they can inform culturally tailored interventions for abused NK refugee women. To prevent further victimization, educational programs should be provided to NK refugee women at an early stage of resettlement in South Korea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2037-2058
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of interpersonal violence
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • North Korean refugee women
  • child abuse history
  • domestic violence
  • gender role beliefs
  • sociocultural adaptation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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